Runway ML - Portrait Training Process
What if blockchain network technology resembled biological and social communities?

Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle is a speculative making space that uses the symbiotic relationship of bacteria and yeast in kombucha to envision a more sustainable and community-oriented blockchain network.

Role: Individual Project Studio
Timeline: 3 weeks
Advisors: Ben Hooker and Ebru Kurbak
Tools: Premiere Pro and After Effects

Challenge

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Blockchain networks are extremely energy-intensive, and the power to compute the proof-of-work algorithms are expected to grow exponentially.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dna-the-ultimate-data-storage-solution/

Process

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For this project I wanted to focus on blockchain technology as a way to learn more about the technology and its socio-cultural implications. I was inspired by NFTs are a way to reduce copyright infringement and provide fair wages for craft-makers.

The initial idea was to create a physical to digital volumetric capture studio for craft-makers to mint NFTs in order to track their products through the global marketplace. This making space would allow them to receive fair compensation, adequate recognition for their work and begin marketing their products into virtual spaces. Unfortunately, my advisors did not find it compelling enough due to the fact that it was not speculative.
After initial feedback on my original idea, I refined my project to phytigal craft-making through the motion capture of micro hand and tool movements during the making process. By tracking the hands and respective tools, a 3D modeling software would create the product digitally, in real time. By tracking the finer movements of the making process, the digital representation could resemble the physical item insofar as the more one scales down, the details would be greater, instead of being more abstract as is the case with digital representations today. This iteration kept in line with my original concept of NFT minting by taking physical items and creating digital representations of them tracking across the global market and use in virtual spaces.
In the end I decided on a project that used Storyboard of the final project idea and associated video.
The kombucha brewing process before the DNA therapeutic solution is added to the "mother" and let fermenting for the next two weeks.

Documentation

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By leveraging the rapid growth and replication process of cells in the kombucha "mother", I envisioned encrypting information in DNA  across every cell. Much like the current digital blockchain technology this biological blockchain uses DNA therapeutics. The information could be accessed from each cell in the new "mother" through a DNA sequencing machine that I envision being available at a consumer level much like garage or kitchen equipment. After the kombucha fermentation process was done, the kombucha with the messages could be passed onto others and the new "mother" could be passed onto others with the data encrypted and ready for additional information to be added to it.

An additional "mother" (center) grew during the fermentation process and it was separated and packaged to be sent to a friend, forming a node in the blockchain network. The encoded message that I inserted into the original "mother" was retained in the DNA yeast and bacteria and ready for the insertion of an additional message.
After the kombucha fermented long enough, I flavored each batch and passed each to my friends as a metaphor for spreading the message.
The friend to whom I provide the replicated "mother" fermented a batch of their own kombucha. As a result, an additional "mother" was created and ready to dispersed to another individual, forming another node in the blockchain network.

Reflection

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Through the research process of the project, I uncovered how copyright laws do not apply to NFTs and that anyone can create a NFT on the several minting sites that exist on the internet. In the end, I became less excited about the prospects of NFTs for those who are looking to advance as a struggling maker. From my point of view, NFTs are just another ploy for the rich and famous to continue making more money on their name and work.

In addition, I found the project to be quite difficult because of the short timeline and the limited access to Ebru. My first two iterations were not sufficient so I didn't have a chance to discuss the final especially since the first idea I had was not that exciting.

I really liked the idea of using the community-creating potential of kombucha to envision a more local and communal blockchain network. In the end, I see this as an archive of relations amongst participants in this emergent network.

Consideration

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I envision a blockchain network that is not extractive and builds communities of both human and nonhuman beings.
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