The elements of the eternal People’s Art Archive

I have this idea for a project around street art that has been haunting me for years. Since I haven’t had the time to actually implement it, I tend to write notes to myself discussing multiple aspects of it. The beautiful thing about writing is that you can ponder about the possibilities without spending the effort required to build it.

It is fun to look at some old notes and see how a couple of aspects of this idea have evolved throughout time as I explored its essence. The original idea was to build a nice map with all the street art in the city. Then it evolved into having a sort of encyclopaedia of street art with info about artists and all of their pieces. Nowadays, the idea is settling on dealing with the ephemerality of street art by making it sure it lasts forever. Each iteration of this idea represented a superset of the previous iteration by trying to tackle a bigger problem.

The current working name, “People’s Art Archive”, comes from the fact that street art is also commonly referred to as public art. Public not only because it takes place in public places but because it belongs to the people. Also, the prefix “People’s” always reminds me of Lessig’s beautiful talk or People’s Republics so, double entendre. By the way, in case you were wondering, “Public Art Archive” was already taken.

Yesterday I wondered which ingredients such a project would need to have in order to fulfil its goal of ensuring its digital archive of art lasts forever.

  1. The Archive should not belong to me, or to a certain organization, it should belong to everybody. One way of achieving that is through open source. Another is by having a way through which anybody is able to operate the Archive if they choose to do so without asking for permission (i.e. a bit like one would do by running his own Bitcoin/IPFS node).
  2. The Archive should be like the Web, flexible and ubiquitous. It should run anywhere. It should embrace (open) protocols that encourage widespread participation/collaboration. When considering this point things like Microformats, Mediachain and POSSE come to my mind.
  3. The Archive should embrace/encourage permissionless innovation. Because that eventually leads to Cambrian explosions of creativity like the ones we have on the Web. Appropriate content licensing and attribution mechanisms as well as fostering a healthy community might help with this.

In short, the Archive should be benchmarked against text.