stories create value ::: 

Aelans // Network Prototype

We start at the beginning:

stories create value

photo: Gina Kaltipli, Further Arts

Aelans is a creative R&D project with Sandy Sur, an artist and community leader with the Leweton Cultural Group working with ni-Vanuatu communities to record stories and culture. Sandy understands story-telling, dreams, and culture as vital ways to grow resilience and connection.

When communities have to rebuild or relocate to neighbouring towns or islands in response to extreme events there are serious questions around resources, work and how to continue traditional practices and create the cultural value that sustains the community.

The inspiration for a network of sovereign digital archives came through the work of Further Arts during the Ambae evacuations in 2018. The Independent ran the story of how Further Arts‘ cultural documentation during the Ambae evacuations supported resilience and nurtured confidence. The people’s Paramount Chief, Benuel Garae, the President of the Ambae Island Council of Chiefs, then invited Further Arts to help the community document the stories of Ambae on their own terms as they faced great uncertainty due to the unstable activity of the island’s volcano. 
The development of Aelans will support and enrich creative documentation through community led workshops and co-design exploring immersive creative recording techniques, and the development of a digital network to hold these recordings safely.

Emphasis is placed on techniques that centre accessibility and embodied communication eg. Augmented Reality, 360 Recordings and photogrammetry of the island. The project researches community response and recommendations for community owned immersive web portals - accessible to mobile phones on Vanuatu - that can support and encourage cultural expression and connection during extreme periods (eg. rebuilding after cyclones and forced migration.)

The artists are working with network technologies to explore how a specific value that a story creates can find digital life and also be inscribed in a craft object. These story objects can be embedded with the coding of their own digital provenance creating fresh possibilities for hybrid forms evolving craft practices and value exchange.

With partners in acoustic ecology we are developing bespoke prototype technology built on open source RSA Public/Private key encryption, and utilising digital signatures and hash functions to establish and leverage digital provenance. This creates possibilities similar to those that underlie blockchain technology, but it is decentralised, open source and public, and can enable further features and flows of knowledge and value. Inherent to this work is community leadership. Open tools can allow for further evolutions and the potential for additional functionality to grow to support the needs of unique particular communities with network solutions.

The features of the Prototype created are:

photo: Gina Kaltipli, Further Arts
  • The design privileges place-based (or localised, locative, or local) intangible cultural heritage (ICH), without excluding physical objects and artefacts.

  • The physical object itself may also be the output of dynamic processes of ICH (in other words: creative currency.)

  • The functions (the rules, the codes, the laws) of digital provenance are performed by the specific community eg. through the production of woven pandanus mats which are patterned with traditional dyes.

  • The system does not exist to create assets for speculation on the Crypto markets, but to mirror and support the logic underpinning forms of community creativity eg. creating value through the weaving of pandanus mats.

  • The value created is an emergent currency, which requires no Reserve Bank or Mint. It facilitates the distributed allocation of resources and is operated by participants in the community.

A cascade network for culture and knowledge to enable Self-sovereign Co-operatively owned infrastructure

The design of this system allows for value to be attached to cultural products in ways that are being defined and determined locally (i.e by the specific community in Vanuatu). The details of how this value exchange would be set up is community driven and there is flexibility inscribed which allows choices to be made around what to share and what not to share. For example, it is possible for the community to decide to release digital traceable objects reflective of craft whilst limiting access to recorded local knowledge, and sharing this with only the community network. 

Choice and consent is the domain of the community: the emphasis on local nodes and collaborative workshops is to strengthen the basis for a network of culture and knowledge on the terms of these communities.

Community, Ecology and Technology Innovation

This is an experimental research project in service to community leadership and as such will develop as relationships grow across time. 

The alternative currencies of Vanuatu - the continued production of Shell Money on some islands and the variety of pandanus practices indigenous to Ambae - encode a rich historical understanding of innovating value systems. Co-design workshops will support cultural activities so that community knowledge and creativity direct the logic and design of a digital system to facilitate flows of cultural value.

Progressive technology networks can potentially give formalised support to vastly extend the reach of cultural creativity. Defining how that value will be organised is a creative act and belongs to members of the communities themeselves. The project works with the Cascade Network’s partners Further Arts and their decades of experience facilitating community meetings and creative workshop in Vanuatu.