Open Science and research reproducibility rely on ongoing access to research data. With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Leadership Grants for Libraries program, the Internet Archive (IA) and Center for Open Science (COS) will work together to ensure that open data related to the scientific research process is archived for perpetual access, redistribution, and reuse. The project aims to leverage the intersection between open research data, the long-term stewardship activities of libraries, and distributed data sharing and preservation networks. By focusing on these three areas of work, the project will test and implement infrastructure for improved data sharing in further support of open science and data curation. Building out interoperability between open data platforms like the Open Science Framework (OSF) of COS, large scale digital archives like IA, and collaborative preservation networks has the potential to enable more seamless distribution of open research data and enable new forms of custody and use. See also the press release from COS announcing this project.
OSF supports the research lifecycle by enabling researchers to produce and manage registrations and data artifacts for further curation to foster adoption and discovery. The Internet Archive works with 700+ institutions to collect, archive, and provide access to born-digital and web-published resources and data. Preservation at IA of open data on OSF will enable further availability of this data to other preservation networks and curatorial partners for distributed long term stewardship and local custody by research institutions using both COS and IA services. The project will also partner with a number of preservation networks and repositories to mirror portions of this data and test additional interoperability among additional stewardship organizations and digital preservation systems.
Beyond the prototyping and technical work of data archiving, the teams will also be conducting training, including the development of open education resources, webinars, and similar materials to ensure data librarians can incorporate the project deliverables into their local research data management workflows. The two-year project will first focus on OSF Registrations data and expand to include other open access materials hosted on OSF. Later stage work will test interoperable approaches to sharing subsets of this data with other preservation networks such as LOCKSS, AP Trust, and individual university libraries. Together, IA and COS aim to lay the groundwork for seamless technical integration supporting the full lifecycle of data publishing, distribution, preservation, and perpetual access.
Project contacts: IA – Jefferson Bailey, Director of Web Archiving & Data Services, jefferson [at] archive.org COS – Nici Pfeiffer, Director of Product, nici [at] cos.io
Dean Bartoli Smith’s book of poetry about growing up in Baltimore came out in 2000. American Boy was long past its sales life until it was resurrected by being digitized by the Internet Archive and made available through one-at-a-time digital lending (a model known as Controlled Digital Lending).
“It’s uniquely personal to me because some of the poems deal with my parents’ divorce at the age of seven,” says Smith of the 68-page collection of poems. “My mother became a family law attorney and would give my book to clients who were dealing with custody situations. She passed away in January and as a tribute to her, I wanted there to be free access to that book.”
The poems reflect Smith’s journey to adulthood and issues of the day, such as Vietnam and the plight of Native Americans. It is geared for readers 10 and up. Initially, about 1,000 copies were printed by Washington Writers Publishing House and now the book is available by print on demand.
“I think there is a big need to be able to provide access to these books that are out of print,” said Smith, who is director of the Duke University Press and a 1989 graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts program at Columbia University, “I didn’t go about writing as a way to make a living. Poets are writing poetry to make sense of the world and to share. If someone can benefit from something that I’ve written, then all the more power.”
Smith also wrote Never Easy, Never Pretty: A Fan, A City, A Championship Season, a nonfiction trade book about the Baltimore Ravens 2012 Super Bowl season published by Temple University Press in 2013. Each chapter starts with a line of poetry about football from an established poet. While still in print, Smith said he may eventually explore having that title digitized by the Internet Archive.
This week, the Internet Archive and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) were honored for the Best Book of 2019 at the annual Digital Book World Awards for their work to create an enhanced version of the Mueller Report. The Digital Book World (DBW) Award recognizes outstanding achievement in digital publishing. The Internet Archive and DPLA were awarded Best Book in the nonfiction category for their work in creating a more accessible and contextualized version of the Mueller Report. “This is an important document for American history,” said Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “It deserved to be enhanced with features to make it more usable for more people—so they could not only read it but dive in and click to go further.”
After months of anticipation and speculation, the U.S. Department of Justice released the Mueller Report this spring as a PDF that was an image of the text. “It was a dead document,” Kahle said. “You couldn’t cut and paste; you couldn’t search it. We sprang into action.”
Although the DOJ posted an updated version with searchable text four days later, the format still lacked important functionality. The report contained almost 2,400 footnotes, but only 14—barely half of one percent—included links to live web pages. In addition, the report contained a number of formatting issues which made it difficult for people with disabilities to read.
The Internet Archive and its partners immediately began working to improve the report’s format. By collaborating with members of the accessibility community, it made the report usable for readers with visual impairments; in partnership with DPLA, it ensured the report was released in EPUB format for use on ebook readers.
Most importantly, the Internet Archive got to work turning as many footnotes as possible into clickable links. A team of four researchers worked for three months, investigating every footnote, identifying and compiling the publicly available sources, uploading them into the Internet Archive, and inserting those links into the report. By the time they finished, the researchers had turned 747 footnotes—almost a third of the total—into clickable links. The Internet Archive and DPLA re-released the enhanced report in mid-July.
“We’re very happy about the award,” said Mr. Kahle. “We hope this becomes a standard of excellence for publishing books in the future.”
If you have ideas for other public documents that would benefit from similar enhancements, please write to email@example.com. If you would like to support similar future projects, you can donate to the Archive at archive.org/donate.
By continuing to find new opportunities to make older books, often lost or just inaccessible to the public, available online, Boston Public Library is sparking new enthusiasm among the reading public.
“It’s like a giant treasure hunt for book lovers that just keeps renewing itself,” said BPL President David Leonard.
As one of the nation’s oldest and first municipally funded public libraries in the United States, the Boston Public Library (BPL) holds an estimated 23 million items in its collection. It is one of the three largest in the country along with the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.
“Libraries that are thriving the most are the ones that are reinventing themselves, responding to new demand and new modes of access, simultaneously keeping one foot in traditional services and engaging with the public in new ways,” said Leonard “and that goes for our physical spaces and for our collections.”
BPL has long been a leader in the digitization and scanning of materials and was the first library to partner with the Internet Archive to pilot access via Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) services in 2011. CDL is the online or digital equivalent of traditional library lending – ‘one copy owned, one copy lent’.
The CDL pilot began in Boston as a way of both preserving and giving access to family genealogies and historical cookbooks, and materials that were stored deep in the stacks and rarely circulated. The first pilot was a success and BPL is moving to its next pilot now offering ‘one patron, one copy at-a-time’ access to scanned copies of certain older printed books from the 50,000 historic children’s books in the Alice Jordan Collection, which is housed in closed stacks and unavailable to the public in physical form. A subset of these works are now available at the Internet Archive via CDL, making them available to patrons for the first time, limited to where the BPL’s catalog overlaps with the Internet Archives’ already scanned materials.
BPL also has a strong relationship with Boston-based publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which has donated a physical copy of every book it has produced since the late 1800s to the Library. While nearly 90 percent of those titles are not in print today, the publisher has agreed to let the library make available a scanned copy of each item in the historical archive through the CDL program, reactivating the collection.
With so many lost titles becoming available again, it has become easier for patrons to discover and access an even broader array of books – in some cases, not only giving renewed exposure to a title that has been out of print, but also generating new revenue streams for publishers. The BPL cites at least one example from its early pilot where an author went ahead with a second printing of a book which had been out of print and was rediscovered through the CDL program.
“We hope as more institutions understand the value, we will be able to bring more content back,” Leonard said. “As well as delivering on our mission of increased public access, this program has the effect of being a real marketing channel for both authors and publishers, something libraries have long been a champion for. It provides a particularly useful channel for people to demonstrate their interest in older works, and can revive their commercial value.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press was the first university press to sign an agreement with the Internet Archive to scan older print books for which it had no digital copies to make them available for one-at-a-time lending, a model known as Controlled Digital Lending.
Amy Brand, Director of MIT Press
“These are works that are available through Controlled Digital Lending, but where the list of what’s available is curated by us rather than by libraries,” said Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press. “We are a mission-driven publisher and we have been very proactive in the open access space for a long time. It’s been a top priority to me to digitize everything I could and make as many of our scholarly monographs open as possible.”
That said, there are concerns that the digitize-and-lend will hurt book sales and presses’ own efforts to make digital books available to libraries. The ebooks of concern are newer titles and trade books, noted Brand, while the works that the MIT Press is contributing to the CDL program are typically older back-list titles that were never digitized and that the Press is not currently selling, including works that are out of print entirely.
“We also give the author an opt-out courtesy notice. We think they should be comfortable with the works being made openly available in this way,” Brand said, noting that MIT Press’s approach is always author driven.
After MIT announced its relationship with Internet Archive, the Press received positive news coverage and has been actively helping to involve other university presses. About a dozen others including Cornell University Press and the University of Colorado Press, have come on board with digitizing titles.
“I would like to see scholarly work that has not previously been digitized made available,” Brand said. “I believe strongly that scientific and scholarly knowledge should be shared as broadly as possible. I think university presses have a big role to play. The university press community is much more likely to be supportive of an approach to Controlled Digital Lending that includes, rather than excludes, publisher curation of works that libraries digitize and lend, in order to protect the ability of mission-driven presses to sustain themselves and keep publishing high-quality scholarship.”
Michelle Wu began working at the University of Houston Law Library in the wake of flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Some parts of the city had 14 feet of water and the library took in at least 8 feet. Law books on the lower level were underwater and the lingering humidity produced mold that destroyed much of the remaining collection.
“I wanted to create a model that would allow libraries to be able to preserve collections while respecting copyright in a world where natural disasters are a growing threat,” said Wu, now associate dean for library services and professor of law at the Georgetown Law Library in Washington, D.C. “Digitizing a collection and storing it under existing standards ensures that there is always a backed-up copy somewhere. During and after any disaster, the user would never lose access and the government would not have to reinvest to rebuild collections.” Controlled Digital Lending–the digital equivalent of traditional library lending–is a model that achieves these purposes.
For libraries with fewer resources, CDL can also be a tool to maximize public dollars and improve access. Once a library determines that its community no longer has a need for a certain CDL book (or as many copies as owned), the extra copies can be shared with libraries that never had access and would never have access without collaborative efforts.
“It’s a way of wealth sharing without much cost to communities,” Wu said. “Storage, digitization, and system costs would have already been budgeted by the lending library, CDL requires no shipping costs to be paid by either party, and the lending library’s community won’t feel the loss of copies as local need has decreased.”
“It’s a way to build a more robust collection for all of us to use. It helps the community and society at large in the long term,” said Wu. “That’s not something any of us can do alone. The only way we will do it is if we do it together.”
This October, the Internet Archive is going global and we invite you to join us for World Night Market, Wednesday, October 23rdfrom 5-9 PM at our headquarters in San Francisco. This annual bash is your passport to explore the Internet Archive’s global offerings, from world news to sacred palm leaf manuscripts. Inspired by the night markets of Asia, we’ll be throwing a block party for friends, partners and our community, offering up a vibrant mix of food trucks, hands-on demo stations, music and dancing. Then, from 7-8 PM, head up to the Great Room for presentations to unveil our latest tools and biggest partnerships from around the world.
Date: Wednesday, October 23rd Location: Internet Archive HQ, 300 Funston Ave, San Francisco Time: 5pm till 9pm
Tickets: available through Eventbrite in early September.
We’re looking for volunteers! Are you an artist who wants to help us build a night market? Do you love climbing ladders and hanging twinkle lights? Or do you fancy yourself an expert beer and wine server? Our events are always powered by our incredible community—we couldn’t do it without you. If you would like to get involved, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On October 23rd, let’s celebrate the Internet Archive’s mission to preseve the world’s cultures, languages and media, while serving global communities with free access to the great works of humankind.
This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting how libraries and publishers are addressing the challenges of providing digital access to materials in their print collections. Using controlled digital lending, libraries and publishers have a new model for making their printed works available in digital form in ways that protect their copyrighted materials and intellectual property. Future posts will feature examples of how libraries, publishers, and authors are utilizing controlled digital lending to reach their patrons and readers, and the impact that controlled digital lending is having for their mission-driven work.
The Internet Archive believes passionately that access to knowledge is a fundamental human right. Knowledge makes us stronger and more resilient; it provides pathways to education and the means to secure a job. But for many learners, distance, time, cost or disability pose daunting barriers to the information in physical books.
“To provide universal access to all knowledge, we need digital versions of books,” said Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle. “People will learn from what they get a hold of and we need high quality information – the best – accessible to everyone.”
Digitizing books has been at the core of the Internet Archive’s work for years. Since 2004, Internet Archive has partnered with more than 500 libraries to digitize and make accessible nearly 4 million books, most of which are in the public domain and therefore easily published online without restrictions for use or reuse. To address the challenge of providing access to materials that are still in copyright, in 2011 Internet Archive began to pilot a service with Boston Public Library, the nation’s oldest and first municipally funded library, to digitize and lend in-copyright books. Over the past eight years, the effort has expanded into the Open Libraries program, which now offers more than 1 million modern digitized books that can be checked out, one at a time, by readers all over the world for free. More than two dozen libraries – large and small, public and academic – are now partnering with the Archive to provide access to these materials at no additional cost to their patrons. It is a collaborative effort that is harnessing the creativity of the library community.
How controlled digital lending works
Lending digitized versions of in-copyright books to online users is supported by copyright scholars, who coined the term controlled digital lending in 2017 and described the legal framework in a Position Statement and supporting White Paper. With controlled digital lending, libraries can identify which of the books in their collection Internet Archive has already digitized, and where there’s a match, libraries can lend a digital copy instead of the physical copy on their shelves. The “control” in controlled digital lending comes via digital rights management software and protected file access which ensures that the copyright material can’t be redistributed; it is available to one user at a time, just like a printed book.
Because the access model is digital and online, controlled digital lending makes it possible for rural libraries to reach patrons with transportation issues who were previously unable to make it into a branch. Controlled digital lending allows patrons to read fragile and rare books that can’t circulate because of their value or condition. It is bringing new life to old titles that have been tucked away in storage or long out of print with no digital edition. And, it is transforming the information ecosystem and reigniting enthusiasm for libraries as the trusted place for knowledge in our current era of disinformation.
“If we don’t do this, some of the problems we are seeing with fake news will only continue,” Kahle said. “If there is no acceptable record, then history can just be rewritten with a blog post.”
Impact and future direction
Because the majority of the published works of the 20th century are not available online, the Internet Archive is prioritizing digitizing materials from the 20th century that are highly referenced on Wikipedia, included in course syllabi, and widely held in libraries. If the internet is the go-to place for information, then there needs to be a wide range of materials available. The goal is to provide access to a world-class library to all digital learners around the globe, enabling individuals and communities to raise and empower an educated citizenry. Having historical books digitized, for example those that chronicle the Civil Rights movement or World War II history, gives readers context for contemporary issues in our global society.
Adds Kahle: “Let’s bring back the breadth of the public library. Let’s bring back the wonder of being able to go into a library and have access to materials and new and different tools…I want to deliver on the promise of a better library system for our kids.”
-Chris Freeland, Internet Archive, and Caralee Adams, SPARC
This summer, representatives from the Internet Archive joined librarians and advocates in Washington D.C., to talk with policymakers about how Controlled Digital Lending, or CDL, helps their communities. The resounding response from Congressional offices was that CDL “just makes sense” and they want to support libraries that embrace technology to fulfill their public service missions.
As technology advances, so too does the ability to lend books efficiently, easily, and broadly, specifically with CDL. With CDL, a library digitizes a book it owns and lends out one secured digital version to one user at a time. It is the digital equivalent of traditional lending. CDL is not intended to replace or circumvent a library’s existing e-book subscriptions but instead serves as a powerful tool for bridging the gap between print and electronic resources for readers and researchers alike.
Through powerful stories, librarians explained that CDL is benefiting specific communities by:
Providing access to rural patrons who find it challenging to physically check out a book;
Protecting materials from damage in natural disasters from fire to floods;
Saving the cost of transporting books to other branches to be loaned;
Allowing access to rare, fragile books or those out of print and not in circulation;
Preserving vulnerable cultural heritage materials for indigenous people;
Supplementing materials at K-12 and university libraries that are suffering budget cuts;
Providing historical context and fighting misinformation online; and
Increasing access for people with disabilities, the elderly and students in off hours.
The concluding message to Congress was that libraries are using CDL today and communities and librarians love it. We were told that Congress wants to hear more. To tell your story of how CDL has helped your community (e.g., did you find the genealogy you were looking for or the book you needed for a school project?) and why you love CDL, leave a comment below or contact lila at archive dot org.
With a sharp yip and a deep ‘Ohhh’ cried into the Pacific evening sky, Kanyon “Coyote Woman” Sayers-Roods welcomed hackers, activists, artists, policymakers, and engineers from around the globe to the California Coast, traditional land of the Ohlone & Amah Mutsun peoples, to share in a week of learning, building, and dreaming a better web.
Held on a farm near Pescadero, California, the first ever DWeb Camp brought together more than 375 campers from six continents to workshop, relax, build, and strengthen the community working on the decentralized web. The camp followed in the footsteps of the 2016 Locking the Web Open Summit at the Internet Archive and the 2018 Decentralized Web Summit held at the S.F. Mint, but with a new spin: what would happen if we brought this deep conversation about technology to a sublime, wind-whipped farm on the coast and over the course of a week, built a temporary, remote, networked community of ideas and ambition in nature?
It was a week of radical creation! A little bit Burning Man, a little bit Chaos Communication Camp, DWeb Camp proved raucous, thoughtful, experimental and energizing for all involved.
Here are a few highlights from the week:
The Mushroom Farm
After scouting a half dozen sites, Wendy Hanamura, leader of the DWeb organizing team had a feeling: The Mushroom Farm, could become the perfect place for this gathering. It didn’t matter that the farm didn’t quite yet have strong Internet connectivity. Or that the bathrooms weren’t scaled to 300 people’s needs. The philosophy and ethos of the farm and its stewards were absolutely aligned with those articulated by decentralized organizers — it was time for our communities to grow together to help foster deep connections within ourselves, our communities and the planet.
A few miles south of Pescadero, in sight of the waves on Gazos Beach, The Mushroom Farm was once home to one of Campbell Soup’s industrial mushroom farms — producing 70,000 pounds of mushrooms per week. More than a decade ago, it was sold in a distressed asset sale and, in the intervening years, its 700+ acres have been nurtured back to life to create a gathering place for disruptive thinking on renewable energy, regenerative agriculture, technology, and wellness.
Home to native, perennial grasslands, an experimental vegetable and hemp farm, old warehouses filled with redwood beams, and more, as a site, it channels a strain of futurism that has long been cultivated on the western edge of the U.S. For DWeb Camp participants, it proved the ideal setting to encourage long-form thinking, open dialogue, and reflection on the evolution and design of technology.
The Big Build: By Community, For Community
Four days before most participants arrived, a crew of 50+ volunteers descended upon The Mushroom Farm to muck the bathrooms, set up three sprawling tent sites, paint signs, prep food, build the camp’s shared spaces, and put the final touches on the site before the crowds arrived.
These volunteers provided the final push after months of preparations by The Mushroom Farm, DWeb organizers, experts from Custom Camps and the Internet Archive.
Together, they created an ethos of openness and respect, articulated in the DWeb Camp Pillars:
These pillars were affirmed in those first days as participants from across the globe —old friends and those who had never met— forged deep connections in the process of building the camp. From posting friendly warning signs about local ticks and poison oak crafted by Companion-Platform designers Calvin Rocchio and Lexi Visco to working with the chefs (including several Esalon kitchen alums) to enlarge the outdoor kitchen, volunteers went to work to establish a sense of community that would last throughout the week. Each night, the volunteer crew gathered for a hearty meal of local produce and cheeses, getting excited to welcome the hundreds of newcomers later in the week.
Installing the Mesh
Against this stunning natural backdrop, what’s the first thing the builders of the next web did? They built a mesh network, of course!
Several weeks before the crowds arrived, Network Coordinator, Benedict Lau of Toronto Mesh and an army of volunteers, many from People’s Open Network, scampered across the Mushroom Farm from the Mesh Hall to the campsites with zip ties, cables, routers, and wireless radios to build a working mesh network throughout the camp footprint. With 6 nodes across camp, this network allowed for full peer-to-peer connectivity for camp participants.
This early team of volunteers laid the groundwork of six nodes for the system and throughout the week, construction continued as more users were added with each arriving device. As participants arrived, they were given an introduction to the network, joined with the open credentials, then given the tools to teach others about its operation by our team of Network Stewards. On the final day of workshops, the team led the installation of the 7th node, completing the “Mesh Playground.” Soon, all were up and running full speed ahead, linking phones and laptops across the camp to Raspberry Pis in the Mesh Hall, running decentralized apps such as a Matrix Homeserver, and opening a Secure Scuttlebutt Pub on the local network — a decentralized web come to life!
Soon, supporting the mesh and teaching people about their own experiences in building community networks were leaders from around the globe: Nico Pace and cynthia el khoury, coordinators from Association for Progressive Communications helped gather community network leaders from around the world. Soledad Luca de Tena, a director at South Africa’s first community network, had flown in from Cape Town. TB Dinesh, a mesh specialist, came from Bangalore. Hiure Queiroz, Marcela Guerra and their baby Amina travelled together from Brazil. All week, Luandro Vieira smiled as he typed away and troubleshooted the network expansion, leveraging his experience in building a community network in Moinho, Quilombola village Brazil. At their side were co-creators from People’s Open in Oakland, Toronto Mesh, Guifi.net, the Internet Archive, and more. They highlighted the LibreRouter, an important open hardware being launched to address long-standing hardware problems for rural connectivity.
Opening the Gates
With the campsite and mesh ready to go, the gates of the Mushroom Farm opened Thursday afternoon and the first eager participants arrived. They had signed up without quite knowing what to expect, but as head Weaver, Kelsey Breseman noted, “anything you can be excited about without knowing what to expect is cool.”
As they entered, participants were assigned a campsite and immediately welcomed into imaginative world created by the organizers. There was the Mesh Hall, the whirring, technical heart of the first ever DWeb Camp. Cables flying (neatly), drones disemboweled on tables, Oculus headsets, white boards covered with concept designs and welcome signs for mini-workshops on just about any decentralized topic imaginable.
A bit further into the campus hub, and the blockchain courtyard contained a photo-booth where participants could take a selfie with a Secure Scuttlebutt-networked camera, paint a sign about their project, or sit in the shade beneath verdant natural awnings. A few steps further, and the Universal Access Hall, where comfy low mattresses lined the walls and participants sipped tea while joining one of hundreds of small group conversations.
Hidden in different pockets throughout this space, experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation talked policy, Secure Scuttlebutt creators imagined a new form of decentralized social media, and representatives from Consensys, Holo, Orchid, Web 3, Coil, Gun, Dat, Web Torrent, Jolocom, Protocol Labs, and Solid held court on infrastructure design, new protocols and data structures. There were spaces to talk about archiving where the Internet Archive showcased its model of a miniaturized version of its collection and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative demoed their latest thinking on data infrastructure and political risk.
Outside the hall, the sprawling outdoor picnic area crests the bluff alongside a hang out area with a make your own name-tag button station, an outdoor kitchen, and picnic areas with countless ongoing conversations, all framed by a bonfire pit and the Dome of Decentralization. In this space, participants settled into the whimsy, the creativity, the ethos of the land. Then, for the next three days, leapt into thinking, experimenting, and creating against the backdrop of the relentless pounding of Pacific waves.
In such a setting, experimentation reigned!
Participants brought ideas, projects in prototype, and ready to break demos, excited to have their solutions picked apart by their brainy peers. A thirteen-year-old boy, Jasper, chaperoned by his dad, worked with older coders to create a 3D map of the farm using customized software and patterned drone flights. Tables in the Mesh Room held rotating conversations about projects across the network stack: Kyle Drakeshowcased his recreation of Geocities, complete with MIDI sound files playing happily in the background. Just across the room, Bryan Newbold invited participants to print or take away some 10 million journal articles. Throughout the week, the ten DWeb Camp Global Fellows were easy to find, leading discussions on building community networks and P2P apps and sharing their experiences as local leaders of decentralization. Every once in awhile, these conversations were interrupted by a new murder as a campus-wide game of ASSASSINS played out.
The energy of the hacker space permeated the whole of the conversation and constantly reminded participants that the theories discussed, values articulated, and ideas for a better web were not simply abstract wish lists, but services that can and should be built.
Old Guard & the New
For the young creators in attendance, there was inspiration and caution offered by a host of the early pioneers of the Web. Sir Tim Berners Lee was in attendance, offering the history of the World Wide Web. Mary Lou Jepsen, who held senior product roles at Google and Facebook, hosted a conversation on privacy and the emerging central role of big data in the biomedical field. Brewster Kahle hosted a data swap, diving into conversations about the Internet Archive, archiving, and the evolution around the decentralized web conversation.
The last evening, an impromptu gathering of the “Old Guard” as they self-branded took place long into the night. What was it like when the web was just starting? What worked and what didn’t? They told and retold the origin stories of the field, leaving younger participants with the tingling feeling that history was not so removed, but pulsing, present and a part of us.
Wayback Wheel & A New Ethos for the Web
The southern end of the campsite was framed by a very sacred space, the Wayback Wheel. This piece, a beautiful canopied structure framing an open fire built by Joshua Tree, originated at Standing Rock and then traveled to Burning Man. Only before DWeb Camp did it find its home on the Mushroom Farm. Oriented toward the cardinal directions, this piece was programmed throughout the week by the artistic-technological educator Andi Wong and proved a centering sculptural home for conversations around the values of decentralized technology and building a world with respect for the elements and earth.
At the Wheel, the camp worked to center indigenous voices — beginning with Kanyon’s opening welcome and threaded throughout with indigenous and tribal representation from across the globe present. There Andi also hosted hands-on activities for the children in attendance, whose ages ranged from a few months old to teens, helping them make art and create their own world within the camp. It also corralled conversations with Earth Species Project founders, Brit Selvitelle and Asa Raskin on whether and how we could use neural nets and machine learning to understand animal communication. Over cocktails one night, about 20 attendees gathering to discuss the rapidly changing climate — and the role technologists have in contributing toward solutions.
By design and thanks to the supportive setting, this conversation about values permeated throughout the week. In a dynamic, well-attended talk in the Hyper Lounge, Asa Raskin and Tristan Harris from the Center for Humane Technology gave a talk about how lightspeed advances in technology (and particularly ad-based business models) have overwhelmed our natural evolutionary defenses. Later, they listened intently to a group of Web 3.0 builders and brainstormed solutions to making more human-centered technologies. These global ethicists came to learn how decentralization could play a role in that better future.
The importance of these big conversations were wonderfully framed by Mai Ishikawa Sutton in her blog post, “Transforming Ourselves to Transform Our Networks” at the beginning of camp. And perhaps the greatest gift of DWeb Camp to its participants was that it created a relaxed, thoughtful space that could build the trust needed to have these hard conversations.
Onward: Homeward Bound with a Call To Action
Whether dancing away by firelit to SF Airship Acoustic, sharing stories over a cup of hot cacao, or laughing riotously during the talent show, participants at DWeb Camp fostered the relationships that will only strengthen this movement toward a better web. The space offered by the Mushroom Farm and cultivated by the DWeb Camp creators and all its partners proved natural home to the kind of slow conversation that creates lasting friendships. It was a place that returned those of us engaged in decentralization to our first principles and democractic ideals, clarified by sunshine and sharpened by the cold and salty Pacific.
Now, participants have scattered across the world — they have become, again, decentralized — but the community built above the crashing waves of Gazos Beach is living on, imagining, designing, and building a better shared future through technology and community.