[PIG] RFC: Spacetime Metaprotocols, p2p sensemaking tools for co-creators of place and time

Spacetime Metaprotocols

(p2p sensemaking tools for co-creators of place and time)

  • How can we imagine together more fulfilling, enriching, sustainable ways of coexisting in space and time?

  • How can we create channels of communication for people working on both technical and human aspects of essential spacetime conundrums to deepen their mutual understanding of one anothers’ insights and perspectives?

Team members


In a world where differing perspectives on how to coexist in space and time often lead to tension and stress, we aim to develop spacetime metaprotocols: collaborative tools and processes that help people realize more fulfilling, enriching, and sustainable ways of being together in space and time.

To achieve this, we will conduct and document a series of participatory, interactive peer-to-peer spacetime-sensing experiments in a variety of contexts. In the process we’ll gather and document insights, reflections and connections to existing spacetime metaprotocols and related tools and processes.

In the end we’ll compile and publish an adaptable, accessible toolkit of activities, prompts, reflections, perspectives and an actionable framework for people engaged with essential spacetime conundrums of all sorts to use collaboratively and build upon in a variety of contexts.

Our intention is to foster critical awareness, active co-creation, and respectful communication across diverse contexts, empowering people to become active co-creators of more harmonious, sustainable ways of being together in space and time.

Q: What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?

We aim to facilitate improvements to the overall processes people use to communicate about sensitive challenges related to coordination and coexistence in space and time.

We’d like compile tools and processes for people to:

  • more effectively communicate about and recognize their own and each other’s rhythms and needs in time and space
  • develop critical awareness of the space and time we make and take in interpersonal and shared experiences
  • rediscover the transformative power of careful listening
  • become active co-creators of place, time and spacetime experiences (digital or otherwise)
  • cultivate sustainability in their lives, from the ground up
  • bridge gaps between various technical and human framings of essential spacetime conundrums; encourage critical, ground-up p2p spacetime literacy

Q: What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

The CAP theorem, a tool used by distributed systems engineers to think about fundamental limitations of networked computers in space and time, can be seen as a reflection of deep but very ordinary, familiar realities of human experience.

Say for example that we as a group are trying to follow “the plan”…

Consistency means that we’re all on the same page about “the plan”.
Availability means that we’re each open to modifying and/or acting upon our current understanding of “the plan”.
Partition tolerance means that we allow sustained or repeated disconnection (physical, cultural, linguistic, social, psychological or otherwise).

CAP theorem says that we can only have two of the three at any given time:

  • A+C: We can act upon or change “the plan” and stay on the same page about “the plan”, but only as long as we stay connected.

If we tolerate any disconnection, we’re either going to have to:

  • C+P: require re-connection before acting upon or updating “the plan”
  • A+P: allow people the freedom of acting upon or modifying “the plan”, even if that means that during periods of disconnection people might be running around with multiple versions of “the plan” (upon reconnecting, there could be conflict, dissonance or confusion resulting from forks in “the plan”; different versions of “the plan” might even be practically irreconcilable and disconnections could persist indefinitely)

Essential Spacetime Conundrums

Protocols dealing with space and time, both human and technological, have to navigate seemingly essential spacetime conundrums.

Essential spacetime conundrums are questions about e.g. how, when, where and why we separate and gather, connect and disconnect.

Cracks in the framework

The technological and human aspects of essential spacetime conundrums are inextricably linked in ways that often go unappreciated, ignored or taken for granted.

Furthermore, preferences for either the certainty that comes with “consistency” or the flexibility that comes with “availability” can be another source of tension, manifesting concretely as differences in e.g. cultural assumptions or peoples’ personalities.

People focused on different aspects of spacetime conundrums all too often don’t realize how to understand or communicate. They might assume that the other side’s problems are unrelated or irrelevant to one other. They often speak different languages and have different frames of reference.

Let’s just say that when it comes to developing spacetime metaprotocols it might be worthwhile to bring a little “partition tolerance” into your practice!

Q: What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?

1. Conduct participatory, interactive peer-to-peer spacetime-sensing experiments in a variety of contexts

We intend to build on p2p sensemaking experiments we’ve facilitated in the past, iterating on and adapting elements of them for a variety of contexts:

  • Micah’s p2p time workshop at DWeb Camp: silent “listening” to partner movements resulted in the emergence of a stable collective pulse with no audible centralized coordination.
  • Bayou’s Affirmation Space project: reimagining multipurpose creative spaces, cultivating participatory collaboration between artists, event organizers, and visitors to co-create their individual and shared memories of and in the space.
  • Bayou’s Water Whisperers experience: an embodied water experience on the banks of the Mississppi river; incorporating chair swings, prompts, affirmations, and other activities, inviting participants to deepen their relationship with the bodies of water that surround us and give us life.
Methodology for interactive experiments:
  • Connecting with diverse communities and organizations to identify potential participants and contexts for the experiments (e.g., local community spaces, open technology gatherings, art galleries, natural spaces, etc.)
  • Collaborating with participants to adapt and facilitate the experiments in their specific contexts
  • Encouraging participants to reflect on their experiences through various means (e.g., discussions, journaling, art-making) while being mindful of the deeply personal and cultural nature of these experiences
  • Documenting the experiments, insights, and reflections using recording technology in an intentional and respectful manner, seeking consent and feedback from participants
  • Following up with participants to gather additional insights and feedback, and to explore potential ongoing collaborations or iterations of the experiments
  • When appropriate, incorporating relevant physical technologies into our experiments, ranging from analog artistic tools (e.g. musical instruments, writing and drawing materials) to digital ones (e.g. computers, digital protocols and platforms, open source libraries)

2. Research and document existing spacetime metaprotocols and relevant perspectives

What are some existing theories, tools, and processes that could be thought of as “spacetime metaprotocols”?

Methodology for research and documentation:
  • Connect with people in a variety of organizing, collaborative and co-creative contexts to learn about existing methodologies for negotiating around essential spacetime conundrums; compile a review of existing tools, perspectives, and methodologies
  • Come up with accessible language for communicating about this stuff.
  • Conduct conversations and gather feedback and perspectives on how practicioners of spacetime metaprotocols might find balance between openness and respect for culturally situated knowledge and experience.
  • Develop tools to assist people in documenting their own perspectives, processes, and methodologies in the context of essential spacetime conundrums.
  • Find ways of inviting people to participate and organically share their own “spacetime metaprotocols”.

Q: In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?

We will compile the work mentioned above into a toolkit containing:

  • Research findings and theoretical perspectives
  • Activities, prompts, and calls to action for engaging with essential spacetime conundrums
  • Documentation of collective insights, reflections, and connections to existing metaprotocols gathered during the experiments, compiled with respect for the personal and cultural nature of peoples experiences and perspectives
  • Open-source resources for others to use, adapt, and build upon
  • Links to any supplementary media or material outcomes of the experiments (e.g. audio/video recordings; code shared back by participants)

We’ll design our toolkit to be accessible, adaptable, and engaging for people across diverse contexts, encouraging toolkit users to become active co-creators of more harmonious, sustainable ways of being together in space and time.

Q: How will you field-test your improvement idea?

In addition to the preliminary explorations conducted as a part of the discovery process, it would be wonderful to field-test a later iteration of our work at DWeb Camp in August of 2024. Participants will get a copy (or link) to the toolkit!

It’d also be very cool to conduct an experiment with SoP organizers and fellow participants.

Q: Who will be able to judge the quality of your output? Ideally name a few suitable judges.

Q: How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?

We’ll publish our toolkit (along with associated media/code) on the web according to an open license that reflects the open-source/commons intent of the SoP program.

Q: What is the success vision for your idea?

Success looks like seeing people using these tools (and contributing their own) in ways that cultivate deeper critical consideration, awareness and respect for diverse ways of being in space and time.

It would be amazing for the activities and ideas developed during this project to take on a life of their own. If people who have never even heard of our work, who’ll never even hear the words “spacetime metaprotocols”, end up being positively effected by the processes developed in our project, that will be a huge success.

the stakes


This is super rad. Do you envision putting the metaprotocol into practice to develop specific timekeeping tools for different communities?

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Thank you for your feedback!

The hope is to practice the spacetime metaprotocols in communities that myself and my teammate (I know you’re out there!) are familiar with and gather insights/actionable tools that could be useful and relevant in a broader range of contexts.

For myself I’m especially inspired by local music/art and organizing contexts where I live, as well as the dweb context.

In the dweb world I’ve watched year after year as amazing technologists coming from online-first contexts stay oblivious to amazing people working in offline-first contexts, and as a result continue building tools and protocols with some kind of “CP” bias or dependency baked in. That’s a frustrated motivation!

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What does CP mean in this context? Competitive Programming? Love the project by the way. If I didn’t have a partnership for a proposal already I’d be curious to collaborate… have long had a fascination with perception of time and how it might be synchronized in collectives without relying on quantification and mechanical, blocky, measurement

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Micah! I’m always in awe with how you deeply you understand humans AND bring the technical chops to the work of human coordination. We need more people like you! The proposal is really interesting, I feel like I’ve read a few proposals about distributed coordination and ecosystem and scenius-building, but your framing is unique in that you’re going back to the first principles of space and time – the approach really resonates.

I think this work would be great to have and field test within SoP as well as we move towards becoming a scene/ecosystem, from simply a fellowship program. This work would also super applicable with the SoP24 Edge City partnership!


In this context “CP” refers to the preference for consistency in the case of disconnection (as in the CAP theorem, in the RFC I’d called it “C+P”). Concretely in this context I’m thinking about technologists who assume that the choice of consistency is preferable and/or more practical in general, without realizing that there are real contexts where you might not want that by default (e.g git), or where it might not be feasible to guarantee consistency (in rural areas without reliable internet connection, or in emergency contexts when governments heavily censor or disable internet access).

This bias usually manifests in pretty mundane ways: maybe there’s some part of the system that requires an internet connection, or maybe there’s some existing protocol or library that has all the functionality needed for an application only with the catch that it relies on one node in the network having privileged authority over application state. It’s easy to fall back on an assumption that everyone will have internet access if you live in a world where internet access is convenient, safe and easy to access, but not everyone shares that reality!

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Thank you Rithikha! That’s gotta be the most ideal possible feedback I can imagine for a proposal like this :thinking: :sweat_smile:

The idea of testing out some “spacetime metaprotocols” with Summer of Protocols participants/organizers is very aligned with the vision! One might argue that most every protocol has some connection to space and time, so SoP processes and practices themselves could be seen as a candidates for some critical spacetime meta-interrogation. Especially given the asynchronous nature of a worldwide community. Maybe I’ll suggest that possibility in my next RFC draft which is in the works now because (segue)…

I found a teammate! Better late than never! Bayou Bay is a St. Paul/Minneapolis-based visual and installation artist, teacher and weaver working on reimagining multipurpose creative spaces, with a special focus on making and finding spaces for people to gather and connect more deeply with themselves and with each other, as well as with nature. He’s the creator of Affirmation Space, an ongoing experiment in creating more connective art spaces by cultivating participatory collaboration between artists of all sorts, event organizers and visitors to the space.

I’m also in Minneapolis/St. Paul and grew up there. From my point of view Affirmation Space is part of a recent movement in the Twin Cities to break out of an event scene dominated by bars and clubs that don’t always give back as much as they take. There’s nothing wrong with a good bar but that just hasn’t been working for everyone and I’m very excited to see people bringing fresh ideas to life here. In other cities, popup/underground/alternative spaces are a vital part of life.

I’m super excited to see what Bayou and I can do together. I think Bayou’s focus on space complements my focus on time. If “spacetime metaprotocols” are to be successful we’ll have to cover both time and space.

Stay tuned for updates!


Great idea!

Let me share some thoughts, or rather pointers to resources that might of use in this work.

I was fascinated to study how space and time play out in social systems balances such as Autonomy-Cohesion (quite in line the CAP theorem example you brought but more generic) and Stability-Diversity. The last one is a problematic name itself because it should show the balance in spacetime, but in language, stability is associated with time, and diversity with space (however, more rigorous alternatives such as homeostasis-heterostatsis are problematic for other reasons).

A lot of thinking and accumulated feedback from practice went into the Gist ontology, especially when it comes to describing time and space entities and properties (relationships).

The W3C time ontology is, of course, another important resource.

Regarding time, @Venkat has done some impressive work worth checking out, especially in relation to decisions.

In speaking of decision and time-space, Luhman’s take is one of my favourites (BTW, I find his social system theory one of the greatest achievements of the last century.) So, Luhmann sees organizations (a separate time of social system, different than economy, science, law, religion etc) as a self-referential and self-producing networks of paradoxical decisions, which organizations deperoxidize in time and space. A decision is always paradoxical because it needs to communicate its alternative (otherwise, it’s not a decision but a calculation) and that it is not its alternative (otherwise, no decision has been made.) The ability of decision-makers to communicate their alternative is an essential feature, as it enables regret, criticism and blame.

I have other thoughts but it’s already a very big comment.

Wish you all the best with this RFC!

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I had wanted to write a more illustrious response, but I have been working on a project called EISPP and one of the papers we reviewed was SwarmLinda for Stigmergic Collaboration.

SwarmLinda: Implementation and Evaluation of a SWARMLINDA System • Informatik • Fachbereich Mathematik und Informatik

EISPP is a peer production thing: http://bshambaugh.org/eispp/

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I’ll submit something. My project is similar, but it looks like you found a collaborator. I wish I wouldn’t have been worried about taxes et al this week.

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Here is where I am putting my draft. Sorry about the delay. It’s been a very busy week and I found out about this on Tuesday.

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Hey @Ivo, thank you for all these links and connections! These are exactly the kinds of perspectives that would be worthwhile to explore and connect with in our proposed project.

I’d be curious to hear more about your workshops, to understand if there are questions you’ve been up against that might be useful to explore.

The Autonomy-Cohesion balance you write about is especially interesting and touches very close to what I was reaching for with the CAP theorem analogy. I like that the Autonomy-Cohesion balance is decoupled from whether or not the system is connected vs. partitioned as in CAP.

This reveals the bias of the CAP theorem’s conventional setting, its implicit value on consistency and availability and presumption of a singular system directed toward both (by who?). We can relax these assumptions a little by allowing expressions of branching and decoherence in the state itself, as in version control systems and eventually consistent data structures, but this isn’t enough to escape from the fact that the CAP theorem is an organizing framework for people who are attempting to create and control the systems the theorem describes… How could its insights apply in more open-ended contexts where there isn’t a singular organizing force?

Thanks for highlighting Niklas Luhmann’s ideas, I haven’t read into him. I’m especially curious to learn about his use of “autopoiesis” and to understand the critiques. Lynn Margulis (my fave) was influenced by the theory of autopoeisis in her work on symbiogenetic evolution. I’m drawn to the recent distinction between autopoiesis and sympoiesis (making-together), as sympoiesis doesn’t lean as heavily on a stable singular self, so it seems useful in more diverse settings, i.e. less organized ones.

Okay, how come nobody told me before that @Venkat wrote a book about decision making called “Tempo”? :sweat_smile: Obviously I’m gonna have to check that out!

This is a really interesting concept, I don’t think I’ve seen much like this before and I’m excited to what comes out of the collaboration!

Reminds me also of movements around “decolonizing time” – wish I had more sources here – I’ve been reading Restoring the Kinship Worldview (would highly recommend!) and feeling really inspired around Indigenous perspectives around relationships to space and time (Ch. 26: Circular Time and Knowledge, Tyson Yunkaporta).

Maybe this captures it a little bit? A rainbow serpent theory of time – though would really rec checking out the book + chapter :slight_smile:

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https://timezoneprotocols.space/ this is also worth referencing!

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CLEA-CLPS LECTURE. A History of Discrete Spacetime and a New

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