What is the Trojan DAO?
The Trojan DAO is a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO), whose functions are executed by code written immutably to the blockchain. It is the first of its kind to be launched to offer a non-bureaucratic mechanism to be built for the specific purposes of supporting artistic practices.
The Trojan DAO has the objective to provide a new decentralized model for organizing artistic practices. It is instantiated on the Ethereum blockchain, and has no conventional management structure or board of directors. The code of the Trojan DAO is open-source.
The Trojan DAO is inspired and builds upon its predecessor The DAO (2016), one of the most incredible concepts to be successfully implemented through blockchain technology, re-imagining its code as a participatory art-work. It is as much an artistic, social philosophical and technological experiment.
The infrastructure we are developing as a Cyber-Physical Commons, is intended to be used by artists and communities enabling them to work together collaboratively outside of the conventional corporate form. It can operate independently of a centralized authority, such as a government, bank or corporation.
The Trojan DAO originates poses the question: can we develop decentralized horizontal collaborative networks for art to act effectively and to operate transparently and democratically, in a way that our legacy models for artorganising are not able to?
Much has been said of the potential of blockchain technologies to empower individuals and communities seeking to effect change. Artists should have a central role in co-cultivating the tools necessary to have more control over the economy of their work. The problems of the centralised art economy are well documented. It is a system within which the lack of transparency, the reliance on the perpetuation of precarious and voluntary work, and over-bureaucratization are systemic.
Art creation and curation makes for a great testing ground for DAO technology:
The seed of an idea is sprouting - The future art organizations can be art-work rather than rigid bureaucratic structures. Meaning that we must think of economic structures as material that can be intervened on and shaped artistically, rather than serving them blindly.
What is blockchain:
Blockchains are shared, synchronised, and theoretically incorruptible accounting systems. Originally developed as the “trustless” backdrop for the digital currency Bitcoin, the potential of blockchains (more broadly called distributed ledger technologies) was advanced in 2013 with the popularisation of smart contracts — snippets of code tacked into the ledgers.
Symphony 2.0: an interactive 3D explorer that allows users to traverse the topographic history of the Bitcoin blockchain. https://symphony.iohk.io
Blockchain has been called “ the second internet revolution”, doing for value transactions what the Internet has done for information and media. It allows unprecedented levels of crowd coordination by eliminating the issues of fault and trust, and consequently forms the technological basis for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs):
What is a DAO?
A DAO is a new type of scalable, self-organizing form of cooperation.
In simple terms a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) is a set of protocols encoded transparently on a blockchain, that define how a network of peers coordinate the deployment of shared resources towards a shared set of objectives.
They follow verifiable rules for funds distribution and decision-making that cannot be broken and are changeable only in accordance with the rules themselves. DAOs are thus transparent and allow for coordination between a group of peers rather than relying on a centralized authority, such as a government, bank or corporation.
DAOs can also provide new community-based revenue models and incentives for the production of open, shareable resources. This means that DAOs can be formed around collective processes, that more ‘traditional’ organizational forms couldn’t fit, enabing horizontal collaboration without abetween participants, around shared goals.
DAOs are extremely new and, to some extent, a revolutionary technology that is advancing quickly, something that the Trojan Team is incredibly excited to see & be part of, as one of the pioneer DAO experiments to emerge, with a focus on a specific field of creation that goes beyond the goes beyond the narrow definition of the blockchain space!
Creating a DAO means pioneering uncharted territory. We approach the Trojan DAO as an artwork, a social sculpture, that is built-up one social consensus or code addition at a time. This concept encompasses launching a “minimum viable DAO” and taking one incremental step at a time towards developing the technology based socially accepted best methods.
DAOs are completely transparent : they are organizations within which all the rules for participation in decision-making, as well as every single financial transaction, are recorded in the Blockchain, which makes them available publicly for review to anyone at any time. Everyone taking part helps decide on how to spend the funds and they can track how those funds are spent.
As with other corporate entities, both public and private, conventional art institutions are governed by rules that describe permitted and proscribed conduct. These rules may exist as a series of private contracts. Historically, corporations have only been able to act through people, or through corporate entities that were themselves ultimately controlled by people. Having their rules of operation programmed immutably on a blockchain, rather than relying on enforcement by a bureaucracy, allows DAOs to operate and be participated in without the need for a corporate structure, which means that ideas can be put forward by anyone from their communities, to be considered and evaluated by a network of peers. A set of rules that applies to every participant, whether they be contributing to the DAO with work or with funds. This also enables DAOs to distribute decision-making and funds more horizontally and with fewer frictions, and to scale their operations much more effectively, than conventional organizations.
Why are we building a DAO for the cultural community, launching from Athens?
Art is an important commons. We are proud to be one of the first DAOs launched, and the first to be focusing on artistic practices. As such we have much to prove in making this model work in the real environment.
The concept of a DAO for cultural practices is very exciting, as it seeks to address fundamental issues in how art organizations are run today, that stand as obstacles to creativity and sustainability for community-based artistic creation, and to enable greater cooperation for art across borders. This is about both cost efficiencies, and an invitation to imagine, design and build the neworganizational forms.
- The costs to set up and operate a conventional institution are very high. Teams of artists who seek to receive substantial institutional support and grants are required to in turn bureaucratize themselves to a high degree in order to access funds. Bureaucratic structures are slow to adapt to the rapidly changing reality of cultural work, in a rapidly-shifting and increasingly interconnected world.
- Having the administrative operations of an organization automatically executed through blockchain, the theory is that this can enable for a great reduction in costs of coordination between participants, and can operate effectively without requiring a costly infrastructure and a number of career bureaucrats to administer it, which in turn enables organizations to adapt, move quickly and effectively, and more value to be captured at the level of the participants involved, which in turn could support greater artistic freedom. DAOs could drastically lower the cost of horizontal social collaboration, cut down on the bureaucratic burdens and automate tedious processes. Additionally resemble artworks
The issue of of transparency and security:
We are used to the headlines about the “smoke and mirrors” processes by which funds are processed in the art industry today, and the troubled relationship between the “cultural industry” and centralised finance. Some recent examples:
The opaqueness and highly centralised way that the art industry operates today leaves the door wide open for lack of accountability, corruption and funds mismanagement, concentrating productive resources in the hands of the few.
- DAOs are decentralized, since they do not subsist on a specific server, but instead are encoded into the blockchain (which is distributed to the entire network), and their code is executed in a decentralized manner by every node of the network. By running an organization on blockchain means that all transactions are publicly recorded, and are available for audit at any time. All transaction informations within the DAO and between the DAO and the outside world are recorded on a public blockchain ledger, rather than held in a centralised database that can be manipulated.
The issue of centralization:
- A DAO is a centerless mesh network of agencies: There is no single point of control, or failure, in the organization. Instead of central management there is indirect coordination between agents, also known in biology as stigmergy. A DAO is a self-organizing entity, and at large better resembles an organism rather than an organization.
Cooperation over competition:
DAOs offer a new economic model for network value creation.
To illustrate the potential of DAOs to disrupt today’s siloed industries, such as art, let’s examine a historical example: In medieval times, “guilds” arose as a means to subvert feudalism - a social system comprised largely of conflicting and overlapping allegiances to various royals & nobles. The “guild” enabled people to organize themselves with more efficiency than if they relied solely on their Nobles & Knights. Instead of allocating resources solely within the confines of basic feudalistic hierarchies, crafters and merchants began trading their goods and services directly among one another, across various territories.
The emergence of distributed networks built on public blockchains can potentially find an analogous fit in society today, with art being a prime example of a siloed industry, with its gatekeepers and middlemen, by providing a mechanism for community-based value creation and coordination around a shared set of objectives, giving rise to new forms of “common sovereignty” that can reach across borders, social and geographical divides. Furthermore, DAOs can cultivate new value flows for community-based practices.
The problem of sustainable funding for Art as a Commons - creating new sustainable funding models for artists and communities
- The existing models of sustainable funding for art on the community level are broken:
Donation-based funding models, such as crowdfunding, on the one hand make it possible for grassroots art projects to be supported by a large number of small contributors, and have also made it possible for project initiators to receive financial support that might not have been easily available in the past. On the other hand, contributors usually lack agency to identify problems, participate in the decision-making processes of the project, or to easily recover their funds should the wish to.
Community-based artistic projects share the same issues as other commons do, which is the reliance on centralized funding sources (i.e. governments, foundations, wealthy individual benefactors) resulting from the fact that most people don’t donate to them, so their money is allocated through taxation and disbursal by the government. While this ensures everyone contributes, it puts funding at the whim of party politics, government activities, and other external forces. The underfunding and subsequent privatization leads to an unsustainable funding model for community-based artistic practices, which often leads to the depreciation of the results of their efforts and burn-out despite having active and dedicated communities. The ‘Commons’ can be defined as resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Commons are community led, self-organised systems for the long-term stewarding of resources, often flowering in the cracks between the market or State.
- DAOs have the potential to offer a new community-based funding model, and a new design space for programming borderless micro-economies around shared causes- Instead of trying to force actors to curb the inevitable abuse of a commons, we can strive instead to develop systems that incentivise its protection, enabling their reframing as self-governing and continuously funded commons.
Additionally, using a blockchain infrastructure can enable artists to exchange value beyond borders and capital restrictions, an issue of special importance from the perspective of launching the project from Athens.
Who we are: Members of the Trojan DAO
The Trojan DAO has grown to involve technologists, developers and artists, including participants who are influential in the intersections of art and blockchain, and who have been involved in other significant projects. Our goal is to continue developing decentralized infrastructures for cultural practices, support the coordination between technologists and artists, and to help in cultivating the technologies and collaborative culture that can allow for greater support of collaborative artistic practices.
James Simbouras (initiator):
As “artist as organizer” James Simbouras has been involved in organising and curating art exhibitions and events such as festivals in Athens and internationally, focusing on creating a platform for young Athenean artists.
Griff was a founding member of The DAO (2016). Currently he is one of the founders at Giveth, an organization aiming to create a better model for charitable work through blockchain. Operating as a Dapp, Giveth aims to bring new governance models in the nonprofit space. The goal is to create better incentives for donors and charity workers, in all types of social good projects.
Jeff Emmett is a Token Engineering researcher, with a focus on cryptoeconomic primitives, such as Token Curated Registries and Bonding Curves. Working with Giveth, and the Commons Stack teams, he is helping to rethink the structure of charity in a decentralized world, and to forward the practice of Token Engineering for robust blockchain ecosystems.
Daniel is a governance researcher focused on the topics of protocolar governance, taxonomic classification and experimentation on DAOs, as well as open-science with the Abstract Machine project for Pando (immutable, uncensorable and self-governed journals) . Daniel has a degree in economics from Bocconi University with a thesis on the perverse monetary, economic and political effects of natural resource booms. In a previous life he worked as a payments consultant advising entities such as Atos Worldline, Paypal, Mastercard, Unicredit and the Italian Banking Association on clearing and settlement and dispute systems.
Denise is a curator, researcher and writer. Her practice interlaces digitally enabled and cross-cultural programming. Her scholarship interrogates aesthetic frames of inclusion, exclusion and collaboration, especially as they are re-imagined through digital arts practices.
2019. 'Blocumenta'. Curated exhibition and Blockathon event presented with bitfwd as part of the Ideas Platform, Artspace, Sydney. June 14 - July 7.
Her thesis in aesthetics "In Between Art and Politics: Frame, Fold, Judgement," reconsidered the relationship between the fields of art and politics in light of different conceptualisations of interstitiality. As Assistant Professor in Digital Arts and Humanities at the University of Canberra, Denise teaches into the Bachelor of Arts and Digital Cultural Heritage. Over the past ten years, Denise has developed, co-ordinated and lectured undergraduate courses in Aesthetics, Political Theory, French Critical Theory and Art History at The University of New South Wales, The National Art School, Sydney and The University of Wollongong. In 2014, she was co-director of Critical Animals, a three-day creative research symposium held annually as a part of This Is Not Art festival in Newcastle, Australia. She recently held the position of Associate Director at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, having previously worked at the Australia Council for the Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
After graduating with a degree in Earth Science from Harvard College, James began his career in the solar industry. He became deeply familiar with the hangups of the clean energy transition, and recognized that technology is the fastest way to incite societal change. He joined the Ethereum Foundation for eight months in 2018 to assist in building a network development program. Through this experience he developed an appreciation for the Ethereum ecosystem, and thinks often about sustainable open source business models. Today James assists in developing ecosystem relationships for the Trojan Foundation, Electraseed Fund, and DAOincubator. He is a cofounder of Abridged, a devOps toolkit linking web3 design in a web2 familiar interface.
Rahul is the lead developer of Trojan DAO. He is also the lead developer for Moloch DAO. He has experience with both small startups and big companies, leading teams and projects as well as individually contributing. Rahul is interested in cutting-edge technologies including blockchain, machine learning, AI, and robotics.
- Full-stack web developer (NodeJS, React, React Native, RDS, NoSQL, Cloud Infrastructure, DevOps, Serverless)
- Ethereum developer (Solidity, Truffle, web3)
- Lead developer of Moloch DAO
- Co-Founder/CTO of Connext API
- Status.im Global Hackathon winner "Most Potential"
- Co-Founder of TipdOff (acquired by ColorTokens)
- Tesla Motors promoted multiple times to team lead
With a background in institutional Investment Banking, Cem has worked on establishing and raising for EM ETFs. He won a Financial Innovation award in 2013 for designing a borderless credit system. After working on startup financing advisory, Cem co-founded Horatii Partners, a research/advisory agency focused on distributed governance. Horatii Partners is currently focused on synthesizing and promoting use cases for DAOs and crypto economic primitives through mechanism design, business development and partnerships.
Giveth, MIT Press
Adam is an occasional journalist and frequent blockchain writer, contributing to MIT Press and Giveth. His interest in unconventional organizations grew out of his participation in Los Angeles’s DIY arts scene during the mid-2000’s and deepened when, some years later, he reported on community-based organizations in Ghana. In a space packed with STEM specialists, he offers a perspective that is grounded in social science.
What have we achieved so far?
- Growing our roots: Community first!
April 2019 - Present
In February 2019 we launched an ongoing series of workshops/ community meetings in Athens, in collaboration of our partners on the ground: Communitism, and the SGYF (Syrian and Greek Youth Forum), titled “Blockchain for the Cultural Commons” exploring the potential of DAOs as tools for the organization of cultural work from the ground-up, and as artworks in their own terms.
The practices that we develop together through our workshop series focus on the intersections of art, technology and community. The goal of the workshops has been to co-design and support the first artistic projects that will leverage blockchain elements in Athens, as well as fostering relationships between artists working locally with teams and mentors from the blockchain space.Community is our driving force and source of inspiration. we’re all in this together. When we are building cyber-physical economic systems, we must not focus exclusively on technology and forget the people that are embedded in these networks. We need to find ways to embrace not only technical solutions, but also people who have experience in community organizing and methods that foster trust, negotiate hierarchies, and embrace difference. Economic flows are just one part of the living system in constant flux, as we turn our attention and intentions towards examining the conditions that enable creating together.
Gro our Own Wings:
Trojan Team is leading the development of key building blocks for DAOs and token economy engineering:
In July 2019 the interface of the Trojan DAO was publicly launched, allowing members to interact with the blockchain infrastructure we have created, in a easy to use and intuitive manner, so as to be able to submit proposals and vote on them.
October 23, 2019
1st Prize for Token Engineering awarded to the Trojan DAO team for our work in pioneering blockchain research, for developing a novel decentralised fundraising mechanism for DAOs:
On October 20, 2019 the work of the Trojan DAO team and our contributions to the blockchain field was recognised and awarded with 1st place at Diffusion, an event in Berlin that brought together some of the most important Web 3 protocols and leaders in blockchain, focused on the practical application of open-source distributed ledger technology.
The Trojan DAO team was awarded the 1st Prize for Token Engineering for our work in developing a novel mechanism for decentralized fundraising through blockchain, for the creation and modelling of a token economy that consisted of a community currency whose monetary policy and distribution are regulated through a DAO structure. This involved creating a simulation and testing the model that we created. Developing our own novel blockchain fundraising mechanism based on our specific use-case and the needs of the community it is built to serve, is an important goal for our budding initiative, and it is central in our mission.
Organising and participating in presentations, exhibitions - Contributing an artistic layer to major international blockchain conferences:
Trojan @ Berlin Blochchain Week
Location: Upvest at Kleine Präsidentenstraße 1, Berlin
Setting up meeting points between the technology and artist communities for cross-education. We invite members of the local and visiting artistic communities, and blockchain researchers, with guests speakers from both fields, to take part in an open discussion on the relationships between art, community, and blockchain technologies. An event for debating, networking, and discussing organised by the Trojan DAO as part of Berlin Blockchain Week 2019.
Alongside the Culture Room art display and new to this year, ETHBerlin hosted conversations from leading creators and visionaries on how blockchain is reshaping our connection to art: Ruth Catlow and Penny Rafferty, Sarah Friend, and Ilan Kitan.
Trojan DAO INTERFACE multimedia exhibition for The Year of DAOs conference in Osaka, Osaka Blockchain Week, Japan:
The exhibition was conceived of and developed by the Trojan DAO team. Production costs were sponsored by the Moloch DAO team (700E).
The artist fees were sponsored through a proposal submitted to Genesis DAO (700E) - making the INTERFACE exhibition an example of an artistic production that succeeded to gain funding and support effectively through the DAO ecosystem without dealing with any bureaucracy, and a great example of applied DAO-to-DAO network collaboration.
As the first exhibition ever to be organised through DAOs, the experience provided a good proof-of-concept for future events and exhibitions that can raise funds, be organised and curated through DAOs, and it provided a new form of representation that allowed artists from Athens to reach a new audience, and for the Trojan DAO to gain exposure in a high visibility event in Japan.
INTERFACE invites coders and blockchain developers experimenting with artistic ideas, artists who are working on creating new use cases for their art through blockchain, and conceptual artists who are pushing the boundaries of art and tech concepts, to participate in this shared experiment of exploring the boundaries between DAOs-as-Art and Art-as-DAOs.
The INTERFACE experiment, as the first art exhibition to be curated through a DAO, establishes a small but interesting proof of concept of how DAOs can be used to collectively curate exhibitions and collaborative art projects, and offer the participants a hands-on experience in interacting via a DAO structure, so as to create a “Decentralised Autonomous Exhibition”.
The experience provides a template for future events and exhibitions that can raise funds, are organised and curated as DAOs (Decentralised-Autonomous-Exhibitions).
Trojan DAO publicity:
Why I am addressing you, as a potential contributor to this seed funding round, and how your contribution will help:
Over the next 2 months November-December the focus of our team will be to iterate on the novel fundraising mechanism that we have developed and which earned us the Diffusion Award, so as to add the final touches and launch it publicly. This involves a final round of rigorous coding, parameterizing and security audits.
As the first DAO for art, building permissionless public infrastructure that could one day be widely used around the world, we have a professional social responsibility to ensure that those who use it can do so safely.
The engineering design process we are following:
- Research: develop an understanding of the problem in narrative form
- Specify: rigorously define the requirements of the system that will resolve the problem
- Diagram: draw out the system components and interactions between them
- Formalize: model the system with equations
- Simulate: test and validate assumptions about system behavior
- Prototype: verify that the system does what is designed to do
We have a working infrastructure. We are at the doorstep of getting our own fundraising mechanism completed. The goal of this private fundraising round will be to help us to significantly speed up the process of developing decentralised blockchain tools for artists and launching our own fundraising mechanism. This will in turn enable the project to move on to the public fundraising phase, which will involve a broader range of investors and patrons.