• memory pouch in conversation with Aaron Lewis
    • utility memory belt
    • leave something
    • site for exchange
    • give out ‘caring kit’ to class -> add things to a learning bouquet
    • sync vs. async sharing
      • some is what you leave behind
      • some is when you swap live

project ideas

2023-08-01 memo

for meeting with venkat

  • give brief overview of projects and figure out what to prioritize for the immediate launch / how to think about what to distribute

  • “Solidarity Protocols”

    • examples
      • maintenance work
      • gifting
      • gathering
    • mediums
      • memory / in remembrance / honoring
      • subversion of oppressive structures

memory sling

  • sikh religion 5 objects
  • rafa - things you carry
    • knives
    • beard
  • nadia - navigating danger
  • kei - navigating
  • virtual utility belt 12 pockets
    • print or cardboard example
    • also digital version? what is equivalent of digital tote
  • digital design playground
  • started at utility and now its ritual

  • “Memory Pack” build an app for memory tools (protocol for memory, experiential) (+ speculative exploration of the sling)

  • “Protocol Subversion Playground” - via playhtml and a website for taking care of a website / discovering new social protocols that are adversarial to existing ones imposed by platforms?

  • cemetery for social media sites and to share grief about it (re: katherine’s post in poetic computation) — twitter funeral

  • piece on collecting field notes on being a creative 02 (the art of collecting)

  • cooperative vs. adversarial cycles of participation

  • some form of credit or lineage or provenance for maintenance work in different spaces online. Can they follow you and give you permission to do more things?

    • Hi Toby and Kara! I’m thinking about maintenance work in the context of credit both because it’s historically undercredited and also how it varies in how visible it is to an outsider coming in (the lack of it is very visible, but the active act of it is a more subtle signal). One potential direction I’m interested in exploring is how to create more lineage or provenance for this kind of work and to explore environments that invite new people in to feel like they own this kind of work (in-person things like co-ops and online things like small forums). I’ve also been working on this open-source library that enables a liveness in websites that I think could serve as the foundation for an interesting artifact in collective maintenance of a digital space (and have a leaderboard / historical log of maintenance work done by visitors). Would love to hear what the latest in this space is occupying your attention and general thoughts on these idea seeds!
  • anthology of subverting protocols?

2023-07-25 retreat day 1

shared glimpse - changes humanity

  • when we cease to understand talks about the “madness” of it all
  • lunacy -> shock at how much of the world it is -> making the shocking / horror thing the normal thing
    • all dead technologies
  • “notae”
  • protocol of maintenance work / good citizenship — normalized contributing to society
    • top-down vs. bottoms-up protocols
  • surfing
  • stewards of swarm: this is connected to maintenance
  • swarms are response to imbalance
  • these are the shapes of waves next to me map for polynesian navigation
  • phone as threshold
  • living memory vs not
    • (e.g. finding a lost database vs. one that is actively stewarded by people)
    • how do digital collections keep memory alive?
    • Bereal but intentional is powerful
  • re-membering as recomposing body parts
  • collage collections of photos (sometimes set against a video soundscape)
  • memory via smell (carry around a vial to program a memory into a smell)

2023-07-05 Affiliate Kick-off

  • protocols have outsize impact
    • shared mission > individual ambitions but constant balance in all of this (seems similar to Tao)
  • goal is to drive protocolization
    • via a catalytic artifact (e.g. World’s Fair)


  • several ways to drive protocolization
    1. increase awareness of protocols
    2. catalyze creation of protocols
    3. synthesize workings of protocols
    4. create interoperability between protocols

credit culture

  • “credit culture” (explicitly instead of “authorship”)
    • credibility, accreditation, crediting, just NOT money credit
  • institutionalized power as credit
  • new media is shifting power / displacing traditional credit culture
  • look at diff types of intellectual communities that live online and see how they are harnessing power / what this new form of credit culture looks like
  • artifacts being explored
    • method for creating a discrete artifact (something like the Bloggies), “Pulitzer Prize for blogs”
    • protocol for lineage-making
      • can we memorialize the reputation that people are accreting?
  • protocols as “social practices”
    • reputation doesn’t need to be designed because it’s built in
  • credit is associated with adding value to the communities


  • how do these interoperate?
  • explicit credit or implicit credit or both?
  • relationship between maintenance work and credit? how does this contrast with the natural accumulation dynamic of credit

death & memory

  • organizations record things through acting rather than actual archival
  • MMO worlds dying - relation to blockchains because of their claims about immutability, define death in biological sense and then in context of archives
    • death ritual for digital creature that dies if you don’t give it away
    • when is deletion positive / in favor of forgetting, how do you make a ML network forget
  • digital cemetery pops up for grief that is perceived as illegitimate
    • online memorials for celebrities / digital artifacts


  • digital plants library
  • how to give a clean death + funerals for digital spaces
    • maintenance work and “aliveness” of a place

organizational protocols

  • safety protocols
    • end of history of safety because we’ve mostly solved workplace / unexpected failure
  • swarm protocols
    • amazing collaboration at scale with very little coordination
    • supply chain created post-hurricane -> created a new political party
    • collaborate through attunement
      • alignment technologies via
    • swarms can be good, actually unlike how we talk about crowds
  • overlap?
    • safety is always talked about in context of top-down organizations
    • catastrophe-driven changes
  • what is the thing that is strategizing / how are you aligning on value?
    • “the promise” is where swarms have an aligned desire


  • are swarms inherently emergent?
  • how do you direct a swarm?
  • what effect does making the protocols explicit have on the swarm culture?

built environments

  • cities - global systems of information flow
    • protocols are the “software” of the built environment hardware of cities
    • infrastructure as scaffolding for protocols
    • e.g. “more housing” never talking about how we allocate housing
    • want to create a pattern language
      • alexander’s work is about physical patterns and want to make the protocol companion that will help make these possible
      • layers of protocols
  • different set of information in built environment, some more legible to computers than people
    • walls in physical space vs digital space
  • perspective of the buildings and perspective of camera in video games


  • what can physical spaces learn from digital spaces? (parallel to what can digital spaces learn from physical spaces)

tech standards

  • ocean standards + history of tech standards and then pragmatically how do you make them?
  • dorian writing a web engine to act as a demonstration platform to retrofit properties that early hypermedia systems had, “dense hypermedia”
    • on why the existing no-code tools are not enough: all these things exist but they dont have everything?

unconscious protocols

  • participants in protocols
  • protocols get a lot of shine as an alternative to walled gardens
    • “dangerous protocols” because they can be even more totalizing than platforms
    • there’s a deeper notion of social control that is associated with it
    • material layers / corporeal forms of social control (e.g. personality tests for employment)
    • strongly-expressed vs weakly-expressed protocols
      • strongly - everyone knows the protocol (e.g. college application)
      • weakly - not necessarily aware of the control, false sense of agency (e.g. cancel culture, doomer industries)
      • what does it look like to subvert protocols?

2023-07-04 Initial Draft Review

The Participant in a Thousand Protocol Systems by Angela Walch

  • a parallel to “hero’s journey” that talks about the “protocol journey” that any individual walks through
  • “protocol identity dysphoria” to “describe angst of figuring out whether a protocol identity is right for you”
  • exit of protocol system
  • protocol participation cycle


  • an equivalent for exploring all the hidden protocols imposed on you in the digital sphere

Standards Make the World by David Lang

  • “an ode to standards”
  • “Technical standards form the foundation of our modern world. They’re often mistaken as limits or boundaries to creativity, which can happen when they’re poorly implemented. But if they’re well designed by engineers on the front lines, standards can become enabling technologies”
  • techno-cooperation (via standards and protocols) > techno-competition (via startups, new products, etc.)


  • same thing as for angela’s actually, but this one is probably even more aligned. how can we expose the internet standards that people are subjected to currently? How can we allow people to experiment with their own standards?

Evolution of Credit Cultures - Toby Shorin and Kara Kittel

  • credit culture: “a set of protocols that define a community of knowledge over space and time”
    • “credit” in the sense of reputation and provenance
  • how does authorship even work especially in a world where provenance is more muddied by technology?


  • research on the provenance / hat tipping culture that is inherent to social spaces on the internet, that have emerged alongside the endless permissionless copy

Mediums of Memory by Kei Kutler

  • protocols as systems for producing informal memory
  • memory lives in protocols not objects (only exists when relational and not in of itself, like flat data)
    • there’s a parallel here to how all generic data stores are slowly converging into something like a graph, relational structure (triple-store)… Is it that we need a relational database.. actually wait this naming is super confusing because a graph database is arguably more focused on relationships than a normal relational database.
  • chaotic storage


  • i really like this provocation that something will not be remembered just because it is stored in a database. How does lore play into this and what are relational forms of memory that enable us as entire cultures to remember more?

Swarmsight by Rafa

  • the online formations of groups of people and the social protocols they follow

Addressable Space by Chenoe Hart

  • “the built environment can operate as a digital database”

Retrofitting the Web by Dorian

  • “On the Web, you have arcs (whether ordinary safe links or state-modifying ones, such as form submissions), and you have what I characterize as naïve embeds—​basically just a rectangle of remote content plunked down wherever you put it. In addition to proper (seamless) transclusion, earlier hypermedia systems had stretchtext (telescopically-expanding detail), conditional display (e.g., Choose Your Own Adventure), and view control (different representations of the same content), among other interesting and powerful specimens of rhetorical, didactic, and literary value left on the table.”
  • trying to build something like Coda on top of open web
  • using RDF to generate entire websites and data schemas?
  • Trying to “solve” link rot and address the fact that URIs are not durable
  • Protocol City, Platform City by Drew Austin
  • Protocols as systems of control - nadia
  • good death (death of protocols) - sarah

Interview Prep

During the interview, we will discuss your background, skills, and interest in the program, as well as answer any questions you may have about the program.

project summary, three obervations

  • llms have made extracting structure from raw human text universally available
  • there is a cultural upswelling of appetite for new social and knowledge protocols (as evidenced by people’s refusal to settle for any note app)
  • the hardest part about any innovation is bridging the gap between the two worlds.


  • what would be your dream scenario at the end of summer of protocols program?
    • reached out to venkat to talk about ethereum, intellectual baggage, you very quickly anthologize out to other examples. can you make study of protocols a first class thing? selfishly, then everyone understands protocols and is talking about them so ethereum problems become a lot easier. problems around coordination generally
    • light up a fire that people keep going, enough of a push from this program so that the ball keeps moving at the end of the summer. most failing at in ethereum / crypto community is being able to talk about it in frames of reference that make it easy for people to understand
  • how do you want people outside of the program to describe it or what do you want their perception to be of it?
    • output is influential, in the future look back with nostalgia or prestige(a bit problematic). want people to focus on the output, not necessarily the program.
    • “footnote” in history of bigger thing
  • what kind of support will be provided in the program for feedback, outside of the discord and confirmed guest speakers?
    • beginning start with relatively small set of core researchers and frontload as much context sharing as we can to bring new perspectives
      • all the guest talks, people from a bunch of diff domains come & share info
      • how to best cross-pollinate diff projects and other work
    • first half focused on how to give core researchers space and time to make progress on their research, so that when affiliate researchers come in there is some foundation for them to build on it and extend it
      • similar vibe or theme that is recurring, coherent playlist / album that emerges from this cross-pollination
    • clearly a ton of people in the discord and elsewhere, what are the right ways to channel that

Application Professional Background*

Please provide some context on how your background might bring an interesting perspective to protocols. You do NOT need to have prior experience or technical knowledge of protocols, but you do need to bring an interesting perspective to the subject.

Please list any protocols you have a particular knowledge of Eg: healthcare, legislation, safety, environmental, cultural protocols, technical/engineering protocols*

Your Proposal Working Title If you are part of a team application, all team members applying for a core research role should use the same working title. Emergent Protocolness

What kind of long-form component are you planning to produce? This must be a stand-alone piece of writing, such as an essay, short story, design proposal, technical document, etc. Please note that our intent is to disseminate the program output to a broad general audience in some form, rather than a specialized or academic audience.

  • Analytical essay/thinkpiece

  • Case study/history/ethnography

  • Field research report/journalistic story

  • Short story

  • Design specification

  • Technical essay

  • Other:

What kind of collaboration artifact are you MOST interested in creating and releasing as a public good over the summer? This must be something other people can use and build on, compose with, or incorporate into other work in some way, in a protocol-like mode, but it need not be a technical artifact.

  • Text resource (such as a bibliography, lexicon, or database)

  • Reference implementation of a speculative protocol

  • Protocol-themed kit or game

  • Design/artwork/video

  • Contribution to an existing protocol (eg: rule change, formal proposal…)

  • Software tool/library

  • Non-software tools (such as charts, diagraming techniques, etc)

  • Mod or variant/fork of an existing protocol-ish thing (new kind of sneeze, door opening)

  • Other:

Brief description of your project idea In a few sentences, please describe the project you hope to pursue through the program, and how it relates to protocols.

How did we grow to feel safe sharing our life stories in the comments section on the internet when we’re terrified of our neighbors in large urban cities? How did we develop ways of manipulating GPT and other large language models into creating consistently useful output when the output space is so large? What solidifies practices into protocols and what makes humans able to constantly experiment with and adopt new protocols?

On the internet, we’ve seen protocols rapidly emerge and die in a vicious and rapid evolutionary cycle. Every digital artifact has the memetic potential for creating a new protocol containers, from the structure of a meme to conveying dense amounts of information quickly to the normalization of large-scale, recruited performance art (Mr. Beast). What has made the internet such a successful environment for creating new protocols? What are the fundamentals in an “ecosystem for protocols?” What would a world of democratized protocol creation and experimentation look like, where each person dictated their protocols of communication and digital translation without an intermediary platform?

‘“Emerging Protcolness” will investigate how protocols emerge and solidify into unconscious codified behavior by examining the fertile breeding ground of internet cultural phenomenon. This inquiry will focus along two specific areas of study: 1) emergent social and cultural protocols in digital spaces, from slang and syntax to signal in-group status to tuning photo aesthetic, and 2) natural language as the fundamental material for language transfer between two .

It will speculate towards a future where anyone can immediately “test” a new protocol that they come up with via their existing cultural and social contexts.

  • database / collective website of emergent collective protocols in common digital spacs
  • “what kind of protocol could I build around plain language, the totally sci-fi vision of computers just TALKING to each other?” — can plain-text be the new data format and universal protocol for converting between apps? can this be a form of adversarial interoperability in a world of siloed platforms?
  • allow for the emergence of social/cultural protocols in digital space, a protocol for digital social protocols, or the environment for protocols. an ecosystem that allows protocols to flourish rather than being controlled by the platform it’s being hosted upon
    • how could everyone (without any technical background) create their own spring 83 and immediately start testing it out using the ways they create in existing apps?
      • speculative exploration / prototype?
      • catalog of “folk protocols” that have emerged out of nothing?

Alt proposal NAME: NLT: natural language transfer / universal api protocol

One of the largest sources of division between the creators and users of software is machine translation. Programs run on code and illegible data formats, while humans run on natural language. GPT and large language models have demonstrated a highly capable ability to convert human-produced natural language into machine-readable structured data for known data formats. Many products have emerged that wrap these models for automating away the grunt work of cleaning up “illegible” user data into a “valid” format for digital systems.

This project is comprised of a foundation of research around “emergent protocol-ness” to study how people naturally begin using forgiving protocols in how they write and externalize their memory. Whether designating action items to finish with a preceding “TODO” text, timestampping each bullet list item with the date, or “@ing” people, people are constantly creating new data structures for capturing the structured roots of their thoughts. What common patterns emerge naturally from the syntaxes that people create? What happens when these syntaxes, created by different people, collide? How does emergent protocol resolution happen between these budding structures? With research that provides a stable foundation to these questions, I’ll explore a speculative open-source specification of this universal plaint-text protocol. Its aim will be as Robin Sloan put it, “the totally sci-fi vision of computers just TALKING to each other?” Lastly, I’ll prototype an implementation of this protocol, which allows people to automatically begin testing a new protocol without needing to completely change their actual behavior (e.g. a social protocol around sharing descriptions about the day from morning pages could semi-automatically syndicate what someone journals in their morning page to a client for this emergent protocol).

During SOP, I plan to conduct the research for “emergent protocol-ness” with a public essay of my findings. I’ll seek to answer the question: “what makes for an “ecosystem for protocols,” an environment which allows anyone to immediately experiment with new protocols?” In addition, I plan to release an initial prototype demonstrating the NLT protocol for converting data between two different systems that are not currently interoperable (either because of lacking API or having complex internal data representations). Finally, I’ll map out and speculate on what infrastructure would be required to allow people to start immediately testing new protocols in the context of their existing apps.

If accepted, where do you hope to take your project after the summer? Please note that you do not have to have any follow-on plans. A summer-scale stand-alone project is fine!

  • Follow-on research project

  • Entrepreneurial venture

  • Open-source/public project

  • Personal writing/creative project

  • No plans, summer output will be stand-alone

  • Other:

Anything else we should know about you and your proposal? Please use this space to share any other relevant context we should be aware of in evaluating your application, and any other useful details you’d like to provide.*

Your answer