The Stigmergic Paradigm and the "Digital Monument" conceptual framework
On the basis of the conceptual requirements previously identified, it seemed interesting and promising to experiment with a model based on the stigmergic principle, which is recognized in numerous self-organized systems in nature such as ant colonies, our immune system or the mycelium of fungi.
Wikipedia defines the term "stigmergy" as follows: "a consensus mechanism for the indirect coordination of agents through environmental stimuli. It produces complex and apparently intelligent structures without requiring planning, control or even direct communication between agents".
A few examples:
ants use pheromone traces to orientate the displacements;
the immune system uses cytokines to change the behavior of cells;
the mycelium of fungi provides growth based on the availability of water and nutrients.
Inspired by this natural systems, we can take as a working definition a paradigm that postulates that a complex system's behaviour can be completely described in terms of the expected desirable results and a balanced set of stimuli, without having to analyze its internal composition and the relationships between the components.
It is a very generic and abstract formulation that needs a framework to be applicable to the context of the creation and transmission of digital culture.
The conceptual framework of the "digital monument" has proved to be very useful for stimulating questions and reflections, as appropriate for this phase of exploratory research and experimentation.
To start with, it is required to adopt the point of view not of those who study or admire a monument of the past, but of those who want to build one for the future.
In the pre-digital age the meaning of the following objectives was clear:
preserving and transmitting over time important values for one's community in the conviction that they are universal and must continue to guide the community for centuries to come;
building to last;
impressing and encouraging to hold memory through a remarkable story that is worth telling.
How does the concept of monument change - if it changes - when it is built as a digital rather than an objectual material construct?
The three conceptual digital challenges generate a long series of questions, not all of which are easy to answer:
What possibilities does the delocalizability of the construct open?
Does it still make sense to think of a monument in terms of uniqueness?
If the monument is not bound to a specific place, how does its relationship with the community for which it represent a value change?
How can a digital monument be built? What forms can it take?
How can one digitally create a memorable experience like the vision of the Colosseum or the Pyramid of Cheops?
What is the "real" monument? Its visible instance(s) or the algorithms that codify it?
How can we ensure the continuous flow of energy required by the visible instances of a digital monument?
How to ensure that the monument is reproducible for centuries without having problems with the hardware and software required for its existence?
How are financial resources calculated and secured to keep a secular process continuously active and effective?
In a complex society in continuous rapid transformation, how can we guarantee the perpetuation of static social values? Does it still make sense to do it?
This list of possible questions is anything but exhaustive. Yet it is highly challenging already as it is.
The "Crowddreaming: Youth co-create Digital Culture" contest was created to check some tentative answers to the above questions.
We must not think of a monument as an object, but as a process in perpetual evolution. In particular, it is a narrative process. This approach is more correct anyway, but in the case of monuments built as digital material constructs the practical consequences of this point of view become significant.
A digital monument does not serve to pass on immutable answers and values, but fundamental questions and methods to answer them honestly.
A digital monument is a reflective process: it is a connecting mind that knows itself and evolves by narrating itself over time and dreaming of its own future. The acronym D.REA.M. - Digital Reality Monument - remember this nature of its own.
A digital monument is an ecosystem: it no longer exists, if the construct is separated in its components or the link with its constructors or users is severed.
Stimuli: identification and sense of belonging, personal relevance of the dilemma, spirit of adventure, will to build the future, love for young people, reproductive instinct, economic advantage, cultural improvement, personal growth.
Economic sustainability over time could be obtained or favored through tokenization mechanisms in curatorial markets.
Ingredients of a digital monument are its seeding d.rea.m. - digital reality meme - , its c.a.t.s - community augmented tales - , stories that roam stray and then return home to add their own contribution to the collective story, and the g.host, the generational hosts.
From these hypotheses the Art of Crowddreaming is born, a first attempt to answer the question: "How to build a digital monument?"