Our Declaration is a revision of John Perry Barlow’s 1996 Declaration for the Independence of Cyberspace (view the diff here). It is also a reaction to Facebook’s recent rebranding as Meta, and to the dominance of large, centralized companies on today’s Internet, those we refer to in the document as the "Closed Fiefdoms of the platform world".
Barlow’s Declaration quickly became part of the cyberpunk canon.1 Today we sit at another inflection point in the trajectory of the internet. Facebook’s rebranding has made clear that they aim to control the contours of the online world. Barlow’s Declaration once captured dreams for a freer cyberspace, but today we find his document insufficient.
Barlow pits existing institutions against the internet; we see the key conflict not as old versus new, but as monopoly versus pluralism. That is, while Barlow’s “you” refers to the government, our “you” refers to corporate and political hegemonies of all kinds. Barlow emphasizes freedom of speech; we believe that this freedom must be accompanied with the freedom to design, govern, and own the environments that speech lives within. Barlow takes a highly individualistic framing; we believe in individual agency alongside mutualism, reciprocity, and collective creation. Barlow rejects embodiment; we recognize our digital identities and commitments to be interwoven with communities, societies, and relationships in the material world. Finally, Barlow’s Declaration was authored individually; this text was collaboratively written with dozens of people contributing prose and feedback, and will always be open for signing.
In short, we want independence, yes, but also interdependence.
In the spirit of the pluriverse, we recognize that our document represents a singular vision, even as a collectively written artifact. As such, we’ve built the infrastructure for others to author alternative verses now and into the future.2
The ontology of this object, and how other related objects can be generated related to it, also reflects the ethos of our Declaration.
The text itself was collaboratively written, and entered into the permaweb on Oct 31, 2021, via Arweave.3
The Pluriverse allows for the coexistence of many worlds and value systems; in the same spirit, all forks of the Declaration will be linked below the text on our site. Each document, its signatures, and its forks are committed to an immutable, and decentralized historical archive that anyone can explore. Our site is one among many possible ways to interface with the texts created here. Soon after our public launch, we will be open-sourcing the code for this website.
Building towards the pluriverse means building with an ethos of interdependence, in a way that is open, interoperable, and supports the commons. It means not reifying moats, including data moats, that restrict the freedom of all peoples to choose, individually or collectively, any web of relations, but paving existing desire paths that others can freely choose to traverse, shape, and use.4
Anyone can show their support for our Declaration by signing with their cryptographic wallet, a completely free transaction. A volunteer-run server is used to handle the hosting and forking transaction costs on behalf of the readers, signers, and writers of the Declaration.5
If you have additions or challenges to the declaration, you are encouraged to articulate your own revisions by creating a fork . For example, the language in the declaration employs the terms you and yours in conflict with us and ours; a fork of this Declaration to change the pronouns and language has already been suggested and is an example of the type of rhetorical work and contestation that we want to support with the forking feature.
The Pluriverse allows for the coexistence of many worlds and value systems; in the same spirit, all forks will be linked below the Declaration on our site. Each document, its signatures, and its forks are committed to a permanent, immutable, and decentralized historical archive that anyone can view. Forks of the Declaration are automatically uploaded to Arweave upon creation; thus, our site is only one way among many possible ways to interface with that data. Upon our public launch, we will be open-sourcing the software for this website.6
Contributions came in a multitude of ways. People wrote, edited, and gave feedback. People provided technical guidance; others implemented this site you’re currently visiting. Some people came and simply expressed their care and encouragement.
This work is authorless because it is authored in the spiritual sense by so many more people than we could feasibly name.7
We owe debts to communities that we are part of, teachers who have guided us, and ancestors in various lineages that we now steward. This work is thus a gift from many to many.
This work is a story, a pattern, and a process of interdependence. By choosing to sign this document, you offer your support for the spirit of this work, and become part of the ongoing process of interdependence. We hope that this invites you to join the broader effort to co-create a more sustainable web of relations online.