Cover photo


Issue 23

Three months after Liftoff, the Summer of Protocols cohort research phase is coming to an end. We’re now getting ready to share the findings from this exploratory mission with the broader world! 

Starting the program, we had three rough goals, assumptions to validate. First, that protocols as a class have common characteristics, and open problems, which a cohort of researchers with diverse backgrounds could help outline.  Second, that this was a deep enough rabbit hole to warrant such a wide-ranging exploration, not something that could be “solved” in weeks or months of work. And, third, that if these first two assumptions were correct, we could help catalyze the study of Protocols as a first class topic. 

Without revealing too much, the number of angles from which researchers approached protocols, the range of contexts in which their insights can be applied, and the variety of form factors their findings are expressed in, from analog games to computer programs, have given us a rich set of field notes from which to draw the contours of a metaphorical “protocol elephant”. 

It’s also clear that we’ll need years to get to the bottom of this rabbit hole. The SoP retreat’s expansive conversations confirmed that many researchers’ essays will be frustratingly insufficient to cover even a portion of the problem space. They will likely act as snapshots, reflecting evolving thoughts at a fixed point in time, with some of the most speculative tangents omitted for clarity. Optimistically, they will end up being the outlines for deeper dives in protocol sub-fields! 

This mirrors our own experience writing the Pilot Study. We didn’t aim for an authoritative, or even comprehensive, piece, but one that would hint at many possible directions and invite both critiques and extensions. This approach got us to Summer of Protocols, and we’ll be doubling down on it.

Protocols are weirdly mechanical. There’s a sense in which simply reading about them feels viscerally different than experiencing them first hand. We hope our approach to publishing the outputs of the program will help bridge that gap. That by gearing things towards active participation, we can recreate a version of the early 2000’s maker scene energy. As per Google Trends, that was Peak Protocol.

We’re excited to share this with you all 🔜!

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