Blockchain-based reputation valuation for unprofessionals.
Club Lalena is a distributed, blockchain-based membership, reputation management, and benefits program for DIY, experimental, underground, regional, and otherwise “unprofessional” art spaces and laborers. Club Lalena allows members to accrue transferrable value without currency on the basis of labor input. It also allows individuals and organizations to symbiotically build reputation through collaborative, creative, working relationships. It integrates archiving of projects and work via the blockchain ledger.
Professional vs. Unprofessional: Spaces and Laborers
We use “professionalized” here in the sense of “for pay”, i.e.: a “professional” is making a living in these spaces. These professionalized art spaces generally fall into well-defined categories, including commercial art galleries, museums, non-profit art spaces, and universities. Professional art spaces both support and suppress the “unprofessional” organizations that exist in an intersecting “gray market” or informal economy. We call the more amorphous entities of unprofessional laborers and spaces “dark matter” — borrowing a term from Gregory Sholette’s 2011 book Dark Matter: Art and Labor in the Age of Enterprise Culture.
Unprofessional spaces can include DIY music venues, artist collectives, shared studio spaces, activist cadres, or collectively-run multi-use creative spaces. In such settings, unprofessional doesn’t mean that money never changes hands. Landlords and utilities still get paid, and some unprofessional laborers may be collecting some pay from art or concession sales, for instance. In our understanding, unprofessional spaces are sites in which most of the labor that goes into making the space be functional and vibrant is voluntary and there are few or no full-time staff.
How would the art world manage its system of aesthetic valorization if the seemingly superfluous majority — those excluded as non-professionals as much as those destined to “fail” — simply gave up on its system of legitimation?
— Gregory Sholette, Dark Matter
The Value of Unprofessional Labor
Many artists and creatives are engaged in the voluntary or unbridled labor that plays a crucial role in maintaining cultural spaces and enterprises. While by definition they do not receive any monetary compensation for these activities, they do expect, and often receive, non-currency compensation in the form of recognition, community acceptance, exhibition opportunities, social prestige, or decision making privileges within the enterprise with which they are engaged. This kind of “dark” or “gift” service economy is the fabric of many, if not most, cultural and domestic enterprises worldwide. Some volunteers have skills that are considered more valuable in the external economy, creating a situation in which their contributions are more heavily weighted. Individual contributors to a space or a group may be more assertive or feel more entitled due to socialization or other factors, leading to an imbalance in how resources are distributed or opinions are weighed in collective decision making.
Club Lalena allows democratically run unprofessional organizations to track membership and usage, organize and present projects, assess potential members, calculate input and value of volunteer labor, and provide membership benefits such as venue or equipment access and concessions. The value of members’ input is equalized through the platform, undoing some of the problems of privilege. The platform can also be shared across multiple organizations, enabling the networked sharing and coordination of resources, volunteer labor, member benefits, and more. For individuals, Club Lalena provides a location to present a profile with skills, interests, and accomplishments, collect and exchange labor credits, and explore new projects and organizations.
Club Lalena presents a methodology for ascribing and accruing real, exchangeable value for the performance of voluntary cultural activities. The benefit of Club Lalena is that all volunteer labor is accounted for and becomes radically equitable, where each hour is equally valued across types of workers and labor. Simply put, it allows for a more flexible concept of “purchase power” to the organization, where labor isn’t qualified by exhaustion. (see: Mill Of Blood).
Club Lalena creates an open source platform and utility for unprofessional artists, spaces, and movements. By positioning ourselves at the forefront of new and innovative financial instruments and rights-management tools, our goal is to make sure marginalized creative communities have access and are represented in this technical progression as it begins to find its way into public discourse.
Club Lalena works by creating a space for both individuals and organizations to store, present, and exchange value in the form of labor and reputation. We call these spaces “Protocols” (after Alexander Galloway’s 2004 book Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization.)
Previous industrial ages were built on the backs of individuals, too, but in those days labor was just that: labor. Workers were paid for their time, whether on a factory floor or in a cubicle. Today’s peer-production machine runs in a mostly nonmonetary economy. The currency is reputation, expression, karma, “whuffie,” or simply whim.
- Chris Anderson, “People Power”
Club Lalena Protocols
Club Lalena will develop three protocols for its platform:
Unprofessionals are represented with their own profile built atop a decentralized management system. This “self-sovereign ID” allows them to present affiliated projects and Organizations as well as verified hours labored, skills, and interests. Individuals can be affiliated or unaffiliated, and can rate organizations. The profile will also present a quantified reputation rating for each individual.
Art Space Representation
Organizations also have a profile, which can present affiliated projects and volunteers, as well as some identifying information, such as location, membership numbers, and a mission statement. Organizations have access to decentralized management system for registering and reviewing volunteers. Organizations can also be optionally reputation rated, and will present their rating score on their profile.
Through unprofessionals interacting with organizations, natural collectives and clusters can be illustrated through an exploration tool, allowing either party to verify the mechanisms of the other. We imagine this as an open source platform reading directly from the smart contracts themselves in a human-readable format. Organizations have the ability to view a potential volunteer previous recognitions from other organizations. In return, organizations allow full transparency of labor payouts and economics in real time.
Individual Representation for Unprofessionals & Art Space Representation for Organizations
There are many different forms and formats for individual and organizational profiles on the internet. It could be argued that the internet was founded on profiles. Many of these profiles implicitly or explicitly present an individual’s quantified reputation — either directly through a reputation score or indirectly through number of friends or followers. Of course identity can also be faked or shielded on the internet as it can IRL. A way that the blockchain builds upon this innate capability of the internet is by offering self-sovereign identity.
Self-sovereign ID is:
Persistently associated with the individual or organization
Peer-based so that the ID is formed by the individual and their peers rather than by an overseeing organization
Privacy-protecting so that the individual controls how the ID is shared
Portable so that this ID is interoperable across platforms.
Club Lalena’s self-sovereign ID profile also takes the form of a wallet. In blockchain parlance a “wallet” is a piece of software that stores the public and private keys which can be used to receive or spend cryptocurrency. A wallet allows the user to see how much currency/value they own, and provides an archive of transactions.
We looked at several different existing models for combining reputation management, value store/archive, and profile/ID.
A reputation system gathers, distributes, and aggregates feedback about participants behaviour… reputation mechanisms can provide an incentive for honest behaviour and help people make decisions about who to trust.
- Audun Jøsang and Roslan Ismail, “The Beta Reputation System”
One platform we looked closely at is Reddit. On Reddit, anybody can become a participant by making a profile, but may only participate with a profile (there are no “guest commenters”). Each profile has a “karma” score associated with the user name. Users collect karma by getting upvotes for their participation via comments and posts They can lose karma by getting downvoted (presumably for being an asshole). This karma score follows the user throughout the platform, from subReddit to subReddit. In this way, other users can identify a good citizen of the platform, even if they are a newcomer to a specific subReddit. In this way, the value of being a positive contributor to the community is relevant to other members of the community and the user is encouraged to continue participating in a positive way.
In a similar way, individual Reddit comments or posts can be up and down voted.
Another platform we used as a model is GitHub. GitHub allows users to make individual profiles, and their contributions are tracked and displayed on that profile. Individuals can also create and join multiple organizations, follow other users, create and contribute to projects and repositories of code.
Organizations have very little power in GitHub, they mostly act as containers for projects and teams.
Keith’s GitHub contribution graph
Liz’s GitHub contribution graph
Lee’s Personal Profile / Lalena’s Organizational Profile
Because Club Lalena is established on a blockchain (the Ethereum Virtual Machine, specifically), transparency comes naturally. Trust can also be confirmed by “exploring” changes to organizational and individual records through an open ledger on a granular level.
Typically, most blockchains offer a technical look at each recorded change. Etherscan, a platform to explore the Ethereum blockchain, offers anyone the ability to see any recorded change from any point in time.
By segmenting and qualifying this data, Etherscan is able to illustrate overhead views of common uses for their blockchain. Since a large portion of cryptocurrencies are launched on the Ethereum blockchain, Etherscan allows anyone to track token transfers, find the top shareholders, and even read the underlying smart contract code to observe exactly how it functions.
Similarly, Club Lalena has the capability and opportunity to present individuals with a sophisticated and modern suite of tools to assist in transparency and disclosure, while preserving their sovereign identities. To reduce user friction and apprehension in engaging with such technical and atomic details, we are collecting feedback and researching which information is valuable for both volunteers and organizations.
Club Lalena is a tool for individuals and organizations engaged in the production of cultural value that is under-recognized and under compensated by the existing economy — which includes the vast majority of cultural workers. Club Lalena allows these unprofessional artworkers to compile and store value based on engagement, participation, and contribution. Unprofessionals can assess each other before collaborating, based on this reputation score. Spaces can provide benefits to sustain associated members or contributors based on score, such as free or reduced entry or voting and administration access. The structure of blockchain also provides seamless integration of an unalterable archive of an individual’s contributions, projects, and collaborations.
Club Lalena is a branch of Lalena. Lalena is a blockchain studio and research lab — investing in ideas that benefit the grassroots and unconventional adoption of blockchain technology through meaningful ventures. Lalena is “tokenomically”-funded by our own cryptocurrency, LLA, traded on the Ethereum network.
The Club Lalena Team
Lauren Van Haaften-Schick
*Note that I am no longer working on this project.