Other Internet 2022: Year in Review
Dear friends, collaborators, and mentors:
It’s tradition for me to write an annual reflection at the end of every year. It’s a tradition of self-honesty, growth, and gratitude. As Jung said: that which we can no longer prevent or hide is our fruit.
While Other Internet has been around for a while, this year the organization took a new form: the squad grew a full-time staff. So we faced the timeless challenges of a young organization: finding our footing together as a new collaborative team, and seeking the firm ground of a renewed mission. It was difficult, joyous, heady, invigorating and tiring all in one. Throughout the year, it was conversations with you that helped us feel understood, encouraged and supported. Thank you—especially our close friends and advisors—for sharing your wisdom and guidance with us.
Fruit grew for us where we accepted the unique nature of our organization and built processes and tools on top of the learning practices that had organically emerged over the last few years. We began the year with our internal “Starting a Research Project” doc, outlining our heuristics for a successful project. By the end of the year we added a bunch more: OI Residencies, Timezone, Concept Trust, Campus Complex, Learning Gardens, Squad Digest, and more. We are energized about these tools and initiatives, and excited about opening up new ways to collaborate and be part of Other Internet.
This year was also about finding our place as a New Institution™ located in a complex milieu. We’re surrounded by startups and cult-ures big and small, economic headwinds, technological advancement and its characteristic moral panic, and timeless political challenges set on new stages. Because we seek to understand these issues, we find ourselves at their leading edges—and often seem to be in the position of influence. We are learning to embrace that position. Across all our projects, talks, workshops, and publications this year, we’ve consistently returned to one thing. To paraphrase something Aaron said to me, we aim to speak to a fully embodied perspective from inside tech narratives, threading the needle between “progress and innovation” stories while holding on to old-school traditions, values, and memories of who we are and have been.
Other Internet is a project existing in two streams of time: the very new (massively multiplayer online coordination games, post-legal institutions, molting digital identities) and the very old (the giving and receiving of knowledge, faith and spirituality, collective endeavors of self-governance). Let’s walk forward and backward, and be the bridge between the future and the past that our own timezone needs. Thank you for seeing our world and becoming a part of it.
Looking Back at 2022
Uniswap Governance: After receiving a grant from Uniswap last year, we embarked on several applied research quests in their ecosystem and tried to kickstart more activity around this billion-dollar treasury. We studied governance incentive structures, wrote research reports on some key issues in decentralized org design, and facilitated a working group that is currently exploring how an on-chain org can form partnerships with outside parties.
Crypto philanthropy: Bryan Lehrer published a thorough report on the nascent world of crypto philanthropy—and an accompanying FigJam essay for all the visual learners. This was the fruit of a months-long collaboration with Toby and Nadia Asparouhova.
Governance Learning Forum: Led by Kara Kittel and in partnership with Orca (now Metropolis), OI hosted a 100-person learning forum on organizational design and collective decision-making. The forum was a bridge between worlds that don’t often speak to one another: governance scholars in academia and crypto governance experimenters in industry.
ANALOG & DIGITAL LOCALITY
Lore Zone: Libby Marrs & Tiger Dingsun published chapters 2 & 3 of the Lore Zone Series. They journeyed to the ends of the internet so you don’t have to, and returned with insights around how digital subcultures form and maintain collective memories.
Local Governance: Aaron Z. Lewis led a research study on the virtualization of hyperlocal civic associations, exploring how they’ve evolved and adapted in the wake of Covid. This project shined a light on neighborhood-building practices in Washington D.C. and questioned what’s gained and lost when local community groups begin to look & feel more like online communities.
Campus Complex: We branched into the analog world this Autumn by piloting a fellowship program in NYC with Leave Room for Thoughts. Campus Complex is designed to turn a disconnected group of private offices and workshops into a traversable network of learning environments for under-resourced builders, artists, and researchers. We built physical and digital infrastructure to support the educational journey our initial cohort of fellows.
Summer School: OI facilitated an 8-week summer school for squad members on the themes of digital psychology and philosophy of technology. We deployed an experimental research methodology for these sessions—constructing “found essays” (like found poems) using screenshots people brought to the seminar table.
Learning Garden: We’re cultivating our intellectual infrastructure in a practice we call “Learning Garden”. It’s a weekly venue for growing & sharing longform ideas. At each session, two writers bring a piece to read aloud to the group. We discuss at length and log our reflections—creating an archive of analysis for this culturally turbulent era.
Our Year in Photos
We moved into a shared office space with some of our favorite people:
We gave talks and workshops at ETH Denver, FWBfest, and Likeminds…
… launched an experimental public school network called Campus Complex…
… and represented at Foresight, Pioneer Works, Kernel, and the Federal Art Museum in Bonn Germany.
And in a remarkable year of big squad energy, Kei shipped Zodiac’s DAO tooling and an important wiki of DAO pattern languages, John and the PartyDAO squad released long-awaited PartyBid V2, Nadia published a bunch of wonderful and incisive essays, Gary’s book is still coming, the new Civilian Climate Futures site from Bryan and Lukas is out, Matilde started a dev studio (hire her!), Ed and Jimmy launched the next version of Urbit Landscape, Laura & Black Swan LARPed, Sam published the Cosmos Hub 2.0 whitepaper, Tom set out on a new era of his work, I finally published my Life After Lifestyle essay, and Norm & Yatú have been relentlessly working on something new behind the scenes. Other Internet friends have done a ton.
2023: Scaling our Impact
After meditating on this year, we are planting seeds and looking toward the work to come. We increasingly see Other Internet as an idea machine. We recognize the responsibility we have: to channel our influence into community-building, to expand the footprint of our unique intersection of culture and technology, and to situate our ideological questions and goals in a far-sighted research agenda. To accomplish our programming goals, we’ve reincorporated Other Internet as a non-profit.
We view non-profit status as a critical and inevitable next step of our growth. What the world needs today is powerful, pro-social conceptual models for our technological society. This is work that can’t be done in siloed academia, or in a high-growth startup, but it needs the DNA of both. There is no organization like Other Internet—where technologists, theorists, and experimenters create genre-defying prototypes and category-defining articulations of the future present. It feels like we’re teleporting into the right legal vehicle for the way we work and the impact we aim to have.
Our research informs those who seek to understand and model new types of institutions and networks. Through our applied work, we provide infrastructure for network architects, and co-develop programs, blueprints, and environments with the foremost entities like Uniswap and Optimism. In 2023 our objective is to expand this work in our new non-profit vehicle. We are seeking to collaborate with new anchor funders, thought partners, and institutions we can grow alongside. We’re aiming to hire more engineers and researchers, increase the scale and scope of research initiatives, advance new applied projects, and release open-source primitives. Critically, new funding partnerships create more opportunities for people—fans, advocates, partners, and the curious!—to engage with us. If you’d like to chat about collaborative opportunities and our research goals, please reach out.
We don’t vibe with “endcore” at Other Internet. Things are always ending, and also always beginning. Plant seeds, bear fruit, hide nothing from yourself. This year we aim to bring more embodiment and locality to digital networks. Out: doomscrolling. In: getting fruit juice on your hands. Out: culture warring. In: local politics. Out: ketamine. In: encounter groups. Out: the Gregorian calendar. In: inventing a new holiday in the group chat.
See you soon,
Toby, Bryan, Kara, Laura, Aaron, Nikita and friends