Revisiting Anecdotal Archives:
Recently the Anecdotal Archives website finally went live! Due to a lack of USDC funding in the Protein Community last year, the project had to be put on hold, meaning that the project was never officially launched publicly. Now, as we create the Dirty Words ‘Community’ Report in collaboration with Protein Agency, it seems like the perfect time to revisit and celebrate this important, community-led project.
The Anecdotal Archives project was led by Protein Founding Member babyguava in partnership with Protein Core Team member Kes Inkersole. As part of our Belonging work within the Membership Team in our Protein Discord. The aim of the project was to help us learn and understand how inclusive (or not) web3 has been throughout all parts of its growth process for different kinds of people - allowing us to understand peoples’ needs and how to begin nurturing them.
This feels like the perfect time to reflect on Anecdotal Archives, as the project was essentially a mini Community report in itself - created for the community, by the community. Looking back, it really felt like we created a safer space within the Protein Community to openly discuss our experiences in relation to our identities. The conversations were caring, nurturing, healing and the bonds made with everyone who joined the conversations remain strong. Now, let’s reminisce together…
web3 is not the solution to our problems, but it does offer a glimpse of hope
Artists came to the web3 space for liberation, and for liberation we will stay
The movement from web2 to web3 signifies a shift from visually-led to values-led spaces
web3 allows people to mobilise quickly towards missions of change, however this speed can be damaging in terms of elitism, accessibility and mental health
Conversation can be a tool of resistance for creating communities of care
Language can be seen as a technology and everybody has different ways of communicating, expressing, sharing
We hosted x9 conversations on different platforms with different people in different formats e.g. public, private, group, 1 on 1
Anecdotal Archives can be seen as a digital version of feminist consciousness raising circles
We carried out only qualitative research with a participatory action research methodology
It was a collaborative process where participants were encouraged to be involved at the beginning, middle, end and afterwards
We aimed for intersectionality, prioritising femme voices of women, non-binary, trans people and BIPOC women, while others were welcome to listen
Anecdotal Archives is an open source archive of experiences + resources that documents peoples’ felt history
It contributes research to the web3 space to raise awareness of these experiences, documenting the needs to be met for those individuals to experience web3 as inclusive
Please see the ‘Rights’ page to understand those needs, which can set a new precedent for creating safer spaces, illuminating clear + tangible needs that must be met in order to do so
“A near speculative future: 2025” — A write up from the perspective of Kes Inkersole, last edited 29th June 2022*
*Please note: the views in this piece reflect the time at which it was written and we strongly welcome any critiques or suggested updates or additions of perspectives.
Imagine 2025. The web3 space has expanded and the majority of people working at the intersection of creativity and technology are working within DAOs.This has given people more flexibility and autonomy over how they live, work and play. Each community creates and governs its own rights based on their collective and individual needs.
I invite you to imagine this very near future because at the lightning speed with which web3 is moving, 2025 will imminently become our present. Today, there is much discussion as web3 expands, of considering the challenges of web2 and making concerted efforts to avoid repeating those same mistakes, such as data extraction from under-resourced people and ownership of content by conglomerate platforms. I want to argue that in addition to learning from the past to protect our present, we must also look to the future in order to dream of a preferred version of it that meets needs which are not being fulfilled. We must begin to imagine and architect dreams of futures which we will be happy to call our present. If “the future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed” (Gibson, 2012), we should begin to build a future that is evenly distributed.
web3 holds vast promises for improving our quality of life and the world at large, and because of it, people who have suffered harms caused by inequalities have been particularly drawn to web3 for its intentions of decentralisation, autonomy, liberation and collective ownership. However, biases have already been transferred from web2 and the physical world, which are consequently causing harm to underrepresented people and communities. There is still much work to do to protect the original intentions of the space and create authentic spaces of care. We also need to remember that web3 is not the isolated solution to, or escape route from, our problems. There is still, and always will be, a world outside of web3, a world full of systemically ingrained inequalities which continue to harm people, online and offline. While web3 “might not fix all of our problems, it might help us get to a better place” (Dame in Anecdote #4 - Appendix D) and the technologies and philosophies that web3 offers “stand a decent chance of providing some of the solutions that we need, (Dame in Anecdote #4 - Appendix D) to protect these new worlds we’re building. Ultimately, we should remember that “artists came into this space for liberation,” (Mel in Anecdote #2 - Appendix C) and for liberation we will stay.
The power of web3 in facilitating grassroots digital activism and creating positive change around human rights
Despite the variety of intentions in web3 (e.g. profit vs creative liberation), it’s safe to say that the people who have chosen to enter the space are naturally curious of, and passionate about, the possibility to ignite change. These are people who have noticed that - in whatever manifestation relevant to them - the system is broken. They are searching for alternative methods of operating which benefit the needs and desires of the people interacting with it. This curiosity is enabled by new ways of organising and new tools presented by the emergence of web3, which have allowed and empowered people to feel like it’s actually possible for them to create the change they want to see in the world.
One thing facilitating this empowerment is the very act of movement from web2 to web3 and what that signifies: the right to mobility. Moving from web2 to web3 means moving from a visually-led world where you are “constantly consuming and being perceived” (Ana in Anecdote #8 - Appendix A) to a values-led world where one can make meaningful connections with others based on what is most important to oneself. This demonstrates a shift from a one-way conversation to a more engaged, participatory conversation with a flatter hierarchy, allowing for more autonomy and freedom in methods of organising. Leading with values first means that everyone in a community can trust that they are driven by the same values and motivations as the rest of the community, even if the change(s) those values manifest look different in each of their individual lives. A trust in aligned values, quintessential to the DAO model, leads to a feeling of solidarity imperative in working towards the instigation of change.
When thinking of mobility, web3 allows people to mobilise globally and quickly. In web3, “tech tools could be deployed for social causes, [with] everyday people turning into overnight nonprofit executives,” (Zeitchik, 2022). UkraineDAO was formed rapidly in the days leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and was even swifter to raise “$8 million US dollars to help defend Ukraine from the Russian invasion, counter Russian propaganda, and amplify Ukrainian voices,” (Burgess et al, 2022). CowGirlDAO was set up “Less than 24 hours after the Roe v. Wade draft opinion leaked… making an impassioned case for the transformative power of cowgirl images” (Zeitchik, 2022) in raising money to fund abortion rights groups in the US. The digital mobility facilitated by web3 enables people from around the world to organise movements of change and raise funds fast, as “web3 seeks to exploit the speed and slickness of new digital tools to raise cash for causes they say would otherwise not see it” (Zeitchik, 2022). People may even be more attracted to this method of activism as “the NFT approach is not just faster, but it collects and gamifies donations to make them more attractive,” (Zeitchik, 2022) while also providing a more decentralised way to fundraise with less gatekeepers involved.
While the intense speed of web3 can be utilised for good for urgent activist needs, the speed at which web3 moves can be detrimental to many people working in the space - causing burnout, inaccessibility, and the replication of capitalist methods of growth. Therefore, in terms of creating change around inclusion and belonging in web3, a slower, more intentional approach to change is required, with* Good Growth* always in mind. This is why, for our Anecdotal Archives project, we suggested using conversation as a means to create a community of care, with the aim of creating a safer space to share experiences and discuss how we can make the web3 space more inclusive. In honour of what we’ve learnt throughout this project, this initial research phase has been carried out in a reflective manner and with a patient pace. Allowing space for us to respect our time, energy and the importance of nurturing these matters with care and intention.
A case study: Anecdotal Archives in partnership with Protein
The Anecdotal Archives project was born out of a series of conversations that happened in Protein’s Discord shortly after an established figure in the web3 space had been found to have made racist comments online. During the discussion, Protein Founding Member Princesa (AKA babyguava) put forward the idea of starting a research project exploring the inclusion and belonging experiences of underrepresented people working in web3. Feeling similarly passionate about the need for a project like this given its connection to my MA studies in Internet Equalities, the Anecdotal Archives project was born, and Princesa and I started working on bringing it to life.
The Anecdotal Archives project is part of Protein’s DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) work within the Membership Team in the DAO’s Discord. The aim of the project is to help us learn and document how inclusive (or not) web3 has been throughout all parts of its growth process for different kinds of people so that we can take meaningful steps to build in a meaningful way that addresses the needs of the community. Anecdotal Archives carves out a safer space for people to come together, as a community of care within the Protein community, to share and listen to each other's stories and concerns surrounding experiences relating to inclusion and belonging in web3. Protein members often speak on and are passionate about making web3 more inclusive. Creating a safer space dedicated to this mission and imagining what it could look like inside and outside of Protein - is of particular relevance to this community
During our first Anecdotal Archives public discussion hosted on Protein’s Twitter Spaces, Founding Member Tina compared our initiative to a feminist consciousness raising circle. Consciousness raising circles became an integral tool of social activism in the late 1960s, taking “the form of a group of people attempting to focus the attention of a wider group on some cause or condition” (Wikipedia, 2022). While this could be attributed to the concept of DAOs, our aim was to create a sub-community with a joint mission within a community already holding a larger mission. In our use case, we would establish a community of care, with a sub-mission to raise awareness of the need to integrate this into the wider mission of the Protein Community, and into the even wider web3 space it’s situated in. Circles within circles, ripples of change.
The key component of Consciousness Raising Circles that made them so successful in the implementation of change was conversation. Their effectiveness highlights how conversation - and therefore language - can be seen as a powerful tool and technology for instigating change. Language can be seen as a technology, in that it is a tool which enables us to articulate our thoughts and share them with others, facilitating knowledge production and exchange. The fact that we have different languages and dialects shows that language can also be a tool for cultivating community, in that people who speak the same language feel connected and like they belong. It can enable individuals to feel comfortable and confident that they will be able to express their thoughts to those around them and be understood when doing so. When creating a safer space, it is important to make sure that we “empathise for other people and realise everybody is different and that everybody communicates differently” (REM in Anecdote #5 - Appendix B). The context of conversation is important, as “some people would be so much more confident and so much more patient with themselves if they had the right words to explain or to express” (REM in Anecdote #5 - Appendix B), so it can be seen that comfort and confidence set the grounds for mobility. Therefore, conversation is a powerful tool that allows us to meaningfully discuss motivations and methods for change. It can be enhanced by the feelings of comfort and confidence that come with communicating with others about shared interests in a shared language - whether that is the literal language in which they are expressed, or the metaphorical language that expresses shared values. The idea is that motivations for change are “first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action” (Lorde, 1985), which is why the first phase of the project has been to conduct research via conversation.
Facilitating conversations means that our research is solely qualitative, with no quantitative element. While numbers are important for discussions of inclusion and belonging (e.g the ratios of different identities within a community) these types of discussions can become tokenistic. Numbers cannot express somebody’s felt experience in the (empathetic, human) way that we needed to understand it for the project. With the awareness that qualitative research can be very unethical, we wanted to make sure our approach did not extract stories from the members taking part as a one-time action that lacked involvement with or ownership over the research. Therefore, we adopted a participatory action research methodology, where all community members interested in the project were given the opportunity to participate in the setting up, facilitation and analysis of the research. As we wrap up Phase 1 and think about entering Phase 2 of the project, all members involved or interested are invited and encouraged to continue working collaboratively with us in order to establish which direction the project should go in. This maintenance and nurturing of relationships is key to a caring community.
For Phase 1, the initial research part of the project, we hosted two public group discussions on Protein’s Twitter Spaces, one 1-1 public discussion as one of our “Stories of Growth” episodes hosted live in the Protein Discord, and five private 1-1 interviews (currently four have been carried out with one remaining). We decided to host the discussions on Discord and Twitter because “The only way to make a change is to mobilise off Instagram, and vent” (Ana in Anecdote #8 - Appendix A) and being mostly text and audio based platforms, we felt we could hold more meaningful, values-led conversations on Discord and Twitter as opposed to Instagram, for example. We chose to host a mixture of group, 1-1, private and public discussions, coming from a place of awareness that people feel able to express themselves differently in different situations. Various scenarios may preclude participants from feeling comfortable speaking their mind with an audience, or with time constraints, while one-to-one conversations may prompt a safer or more comfortable environment to share personal experiences and provide time to think at one’s own pace. It is important to create varied scenarios in order to cater for different ways of expressing and communicating, and “sometimes it's just about being there and learning how someone communicates, that can move mountains for some people to be heard” (REM in Anecdote #5 - Appendix B). For each discussion, we aimed for intersectionality and prioritised the voices of women, non-binary people, trans people and BIPOC women while others were still welcome to come and listen (when the conversation was public).
Once most of our conversations had taken place, we began transcribing each conversation. This allowed for for accessibility: allowing the content to be digested in different ways, for deeper research analysis, and to publish as research resources once cleared*. In this sense, Anecdotal Archives is an open source archive of experiences that documents peoples’ felt history. It contributes research to the web3 space to raise awareness of these experiences, and document the needs to be met for those individuals to feel web3 is inclusive.
As we begin to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of the project, we are currently analysing the research to identify key learnings and formulate ideas that can be implemented into tangible action. We will work together to decide in which format the key learnings should be shared so that they are accessible and understandable. One possibility is to frame the key learnings as a set of rights for the web3 community to which people are entitled in order to affirm inclusion and belonging. Please see the ‘Rights’ page to understand those needs. This could set a new precedent for creating safer spaces by illuminating clear and tangible needs that must be met to do so. We will also collaboratively curate a list of shareable resources for inclusion and belonging in web3 - including our own Anecdotal Archives content.
If you are a Protein member interested in making web3 a more inclusive space and would like to know more or get involved, DM @kesinkersole#5039 on Discord 💌. Not a Protein member? Apply here and join the Membership Team when you’re in ✨
*It is important to note that everybody involved in the research process has consented for their input to be shared publicly online.