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Dreams of co-creativity
“For a dream image to work in life it must, like a mystery, be experienced as fully real” -James Hillman
I've grown to resent labels like “founder” and “entrepreneur.”
Their mainstream conception feels tired, limiting, uninspiring, and at times, unreal. Sure, I’ll default to one of these labels for simplicity's sake and ease of conversation. But I’d rather identify as something else, or maybe nothing at all.
Forget what you think it means to start a company/community/movement, to build the future, or to embark on any other entrepreneurial endeavor.
Instead, consider the concept of a “Dreamwalker.”
The dreamwalker receives a vision, whether during the day or at night, and feels a deep calling to bring that vision into reality. The dreamwalker roams the landscape that exists between “the dream world” and “the real world.” They practice, over and over again, walking between the two realms.
A practicing dreamwalker might find, as I have, that our waking life resembles a dream; and our dreams are, in many ways, more real than our waking life. Like the dreamwalker, I have a dream that visits me often, during the day and at night.
Read it as reality, suspend your disbelief for a moment, and be here with me…
I wander down the windy road of a small surf town in Oaxaca, Mexico, and a sudden wave of insight rolls over my being. I scramble to grab my phone, letting my stream of consciousness flow into the slick black screen.
But the ocean’s calling, the waves are high. There’s no time for a full draft. So I quickly post to Foster, excited to see what might come of these scattered thoughts.
A few hours later, I’m drenched in salt water, arms tired, and mind at ease from a day out on the water. I pick up my phone to check on the draft and find dozens of comments from subject matter experts across the world. They point out opportunities to go deeper, counter-arguments to consider, new perspectives that could be incorporated, and vivid language that could better illustrate my point. There’s loads of silly banter and philosophical discourse in the margins.
I’m having fun reading it all, and from there my perspective and the piece start to evolve.
Over the next few days—on a hammock in the sun—I edit and revise the writing, working off the momentum Foster contributors created. When finished, I rise from my hammock and proclaim in triumph, “finally, it’s ready to share with my people!” My girlfriend gives me a quizzical look, but I am resolute. This process, from random street-side idea to writing I'm proud to share, never gets old.
Before publishing, I allocate THANKs—Foster’s native gratitude points, our tool for explicitly recognizing and expressing gratitude for the contributors who most helped develop the work. This essay wouldn’t be what it is without them, and the acknowledgment for their contributions deserves visibility, as they are true co-creators.
I publish the essay as a Writing NFT on Mirror. There’s now a permanent record, etched into the blockchain, that the ideas covered in the piece originated with us, the co-creators. I send the piece to friends who share my fascination with linguistics, mythology, semiotics, human development, decentralized organizations, co-creativity, or collaboration. Within hours, my phone lights up with notifications. The excitement is palpable. The piece spreads.
A few of our supporters purchase the NFT to signal their support and further invest in our creative work. It’s just a few grand, but enough to justify the hours spent. I feel a wave of pride that a dozen contributors get a cut automatically, based on the THANKs they received. It feels like the beginning of a new era; one that recognizes all of the people behind a project, not just a singular author.
The dream jumps… and I fast forward a few years.
“Back then, we didn’t understand what writing 'on-chain' really meant,” I exclaim to my friend Richie, who sits adjacent to me. “We didn’t realize we were at the beginning of a new kind of historical record that all of humanity would be able to access permissionlessly, use artificial intelligence to search and parse, and retroactively recognize and reward ideas that would impact them decades—and even centuries—later.”
I whip out my phone and show Richie how the piece has become a seminal work, referenced widely across the space. And as recognition for the value we added to their teams, several DAOs have even written our NFT into their smart contracts and now distribute a small but meaningful percentage of their revenues to our NFT essay because of the value it has created. I click into the piece and show the web of contributors, and the compensation that has flowed downstream to them even now, years later.
“We could never have imagined this when we started writing. We were all having fun in a Google Doc, creating narratives that excited us, and weaving together our unique gifts and understandings in ways we could never accomplish alone. We were on the frontier of what it means to write together online, and that was good enough for us.”
I flicker my eyes and come back into present reality… a different one, where things are still something else.
I reflect on my dream of writing work that’s etched into the fabric of space, time, and history. One that is forever attributable thanks to decentralized databases and has created an endless chain of perfect understanding for how societal stories and ideas impact each other and evolve.
The piece of writing I saw in my dream; co-written, co-owned, and retroactively rewarded for its intellectual and narrative power. It stands in stark contrast to the way stories are crafted, distributed, and monetized today.
Storytelling has the power to transform society for the better, but we don’t understand and value it that way. Not yet, anyway.
I won’t inundate you with negativity—but we live in a consumptive and junk-media-addicted world that’s lost sight of its co-creationary and participatory power. We have forgotten that we’re already co-creating all that’s around us.
I’ve come to realize that the writing in my dream serves not only as a reminder of how media might be co-written, but also how the future itself might be co-created. Bottoms-up, representative, collaborative, permissionless, equitable.
The dream I've written of today isn’t “mine” in any true sense of that word. We're all standing on the shoulders of giants. Yet sharing it with all of you is one more step towards co-creating the future. It has become our dream.
Dreamwalking sometimes feels lonely and treacherous—like traversing a rickety suspension bridge hanging between the past and future. But like most aspects of life, it's best navigated and reinforced together. It takes many dreamwalkers, and many hours of walking through mysterious and uncertain woods, to chart a path that others feel safe to follow.
We’d do well to remind each other of what we’ve seen on the various frontiers of our dreams, express our visions courageously, and find others who are walking a similar path.
In that spirit, today’s story is only one fragment of the co-creationary future that Foster contributors are dreaming up for themselves, for internet writers, and for the nature of media itself.
We're building the more beautiful internet our hearts know is possible. But this dream cannot be contained in one piece, or one magazine edition, or even one book. It’s always evolving, a living-breathing entity that requires all of our participation to create.
Thank you to Rob Hardy, Minnow Park, Elisa Doucette, and Sarah Maxwell for help on this piece. It’s been published as an NFT, and all proceeds from sales will flow to these contributors for their generosity.
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The frontier ahead is vast and unknowable, full of opportunity and peril. We're looking for like-minded creatives to forge ahead with us and help us shape the future of internet media. If you'd like to build Foster alongside us, help writers tell their stories, and make the internet more human, we humbly invite you to apply to join our collective.