flowing water::: 

Cascade Network for Ambae
MIT Solve Application

We start from a simple premise:

stories create value

photo: Gina Kaltipli, Further Arts

The Cascade Network will strengthen the work of Further Arts in supporting the people of Ambae record their own stories and culture as they are forced to leave their homelands due to the unstable activity of the island’s volcano. 

Recently The Independent ran the story of how Further Arts‘ cultural documentation during the Ambae evacuations of 2017 supported resilience and nurtured confidence. The people’s Paramount Chief, Benuel Garae, the President of the Ambae Island Council of Chiefs, has invited Further Arts to help the community document the stories of Ambae on their own terms as they face permanent evacuation. 

The Cascade Network looks to support this documentation mission with cutting edge immersive techniques and the development of a digital network to hold the immersive recordings. We will use techniques that prioritise embodied communication (eg. Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality, 360 Recordings and photogrametery of the island itself) towards the making of an immersive web portal - accessible to mobile phones on Vanuatu - to hold the cultural expressions of this community as they move.

As the people relocate to neighbouring islands there are serious questions around resources, work and how to continue creating value to sustain the displaced.

The Cascade Network is working with network technologies so that the specific value that a story creates can be inscribed in an object. At the same time, that object can be embedded with the coding of its own digital provenance creating possibilites for hybrid forms evolving craft practices.

We have developed 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 is essentially the same technology that underlies blockchain, but is open source and public, and can enable further features and flows of knowledge and value. Inherent within this work is creating with open tools that can allow for further evolutions and the potential for additional functionality to grow to support the community 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 is re-positioned in this solution as being 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 people of Ambae 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 creativity indigenous to Ambae 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, and not owned by a central authority.

Blockchain solutions towards a cascade network for culture and knowledge to enable Self-sovereign Co-operatively owned infrastructure

The design of this system allows for trade-able value to be attached to cultural products in ways that are being defined and determined locally (i.e by the Ambae people). 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 and the aim of working with local nodes and collaborative workshops is to support the basis for a cascade network of culture and knowledge which will support self-sovereignty and empowerment of the Ambae people on their own terms as they leave their homelands.

Community, Ecology and Technology Innovation

The alternative currencies of Vanuatu - the trade of Shell Money on some islands and the pandanus practices indigenous to Ambae - encode a rich historical understanding of innovating value systems. The Cascade simply meets what already exists by facilitating meetings, workshops and technical support so that this community knowledge is supported to direct the logic and design of a digital system to facilitate value flows.

Technology networks can potentially give formalised support to vastly extend the reach of cultural creativity. Defining how value will be organised is a creative act and belongs to the community of Ambae. The project seeks to support this sensitively through the Cascade Network’s partners Further Arts and the decades of experience facilitating community meetings and creativity.