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The Dream We Dream Together
Notes on the co-creation of a decentralized magazine
Several People Are Typing is an experimental magazine about the wild future of decentralized media & creative collaboration. It was co-created by Foster, Seed Club, and Metalabel, along with dozens of writers and dreamers. You can collect a free NFT version, or purchase the physical magazine, from Metalabel.
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The creation of a traditional magazine is a top-down process where the editor is the captain of the ship whose job it is to tell the contributors what to do: the dividing of work, the giving of orders, etc. For the creation of Foster Edition 3: Several People Are Typing, we decided to strive for that rarer and more precious thing St. Exupéry referenced: teaching our contributors to dream.
As a collaborative effort between Foster, Seed Club, and Metalabel, we were conscious from the outset that this was a unique opportunity to gather some of the brightest minds in decentralized media and do something that truly reflects the ethos of the space. So instead of dictating the process the way a magazine editor typically would, we opted to turn the traditional publishing model on its head and conduct an experiment to co-create the Edition alongside our contributors.
Instead of deciding on a theme ourselves, we brainstormed with members of the community on what topics felt alive for each of us and aligned around the theme of “creative collaboration.”
Instead of having each contributor work directly with the editor, we had contributors send them through the Foster collaborative editing app to gather feedback from each other before going through a final, professional edit to prepare it for publication.
Instead of deciding on the Edition’s title, we facilitated an exercise in Discord among contributors to come up with suggestions and vote for our favorites. (“Several People Are Typing,” a playful reference to the text shown when multiple people are typing in a Discord window, was the clear winner.)
Instead of revealing the artwork once the Edition was finalized, our artist for the edition, PeaceNode.eth, created a moodboard based on the themes that emerged from the work and gave contributors the opportunity to share their feedback and further the art direction.
And finally, instead of deciding on and executing the launch and distribution plan for the Edition ourselves, we’ve collaborated on them as well. By digging into the unique ways each of us likes to share our work online and finding commonalities and alignment among them, the group has developed a compass to direct our efforts to share the Edition with those who will be most interested in it.
The result reflects both the unique strengths and perspectives of the contributors and the collective strength of everyone involved. Win-win!
As far as the work itself is concerned, we took a bit of a maverick approach there as well. For years, the pioneers of web3 media have been telling us about the expanded possibilities for storytelling decentralized media enables:
We’ll be sovereign!
We’ll be solvent!
We’ll do it together!
These are common refrains, and we are excited about them.
However, as writers, we often feel like these possibilities are so theoretical that it’s hard to understand how they’ll play out — and what impact they might have. What we really crave are stories that follow age-old writing advice and actually show us what we can expect instead of just telling us.
So in our Call for Submissions for the Edition, we encouraged contributors to “dream and speculate and write some weird sci-fi type stuff that gets people excited for this wild new frontier of media we’re embarking upon.”
The results are both diverse and intriguing. We’ve got not one but two riveting pieces of speculative fiction that imagine a future where the line between creators and their creations is blurred. We’ve got a thought-provoking essay that shows us how community itself is emerging as an art form that challenges our current notions of media. We’ve got an in-depth look at what we really mean when we talk about decentralized media. And we have multiple pieces that explore the history of collaboration and shed light on the ways we are already making meaning together all the time, whether it’s documented in media or not.
As with any collaborative project, this Edition required thoughtful orchestration between key people involved in the release, and those efforts were both complex and time-consuming. But despite the new patches of gray hair we discovered each day (!), we wouldn’t have done it any other way. Yes, we could have made our lives easier and gone with the classic top-down approach to publishing, but we would have missed the experience of working with all the brilliant people involved in putting Edition 3 together (and ended up with something different entirely).
Taken as a whole, we feel this truly mind-expanding work could serve as an artifact for reference by future pioneers in this expanding media universe. We’re tremendously proud of the result, but we also think it’s important to emphasize how edifying and fulfilling the process itself has been.
In Simon Hudson’s essay Meaning-Making Cannot Be Automated: The Story of the Decentralized Autonomous Artist Botto, he points out that by participating in creative experiments like Botto and this Edition, “we see our own agency to govern these systems, to shape them in our image and values, and to claim ownership and shared benefit in them.”
In other words, it is in the doing of these collaborative projects that the meaning arises. And not only the meaning, but the joy.
After all, as Mathew Dryhurst said in a recent essay in ArtReview about the dawn of the AI-driven internet, “even though it is possible to spawn the perfect sound of a choir singing, that defeats the purpose of the participatory and ecstatic value of choirs.”
And we’ll throw in another quote while we have you: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” It’s sometimes attributed to Yoko Ono, and sometimes to her husband John Lennon, but my guess? It was a collaboration between the two of them.
So here’s to the participatory and ecstatic value of choirs and the dream we dream together. In the world of decentralized media we are at this very moment co-creating a new reality, and it grows ever more expansive and nourishing by the day.
Thanks to Dan Hunt, Minnow Park, Rob Hardy, Michael Shafer, Theresa “Sam” Houghton, and Lyle McKeany for their thoughtful feedback and contributions to this essay.