We are a non-profit long-term
research group in the spirit of
Doug Engelbart and Xerox PARC.
We are inventing a new computational
medium where people work together
with real objects in the real world, not
alone with virtual objects on screens.
We are building a community
workspace in the heart of
Oakland, CA. The entire
building is the computer.
A communal computer.
This is computing together.
This is computing together in Dynamicland.
No screens, no devices. Just ordinary physical materials —
paper and clay, tokens and toy cars — brought to life by
technology in the ceiling.
Every scrap of paper has the capabilities of a full computer,
while remaining a fully-functional scrap of paper.
In Dynamicland, computational media
isn’t hidden away in isolated virtual
worlds. It’s real stuff that everyone
can see and get their hands on.
And everyone gets their hands on everything!
You walk by, you see what someone is making,
you play with it and trade ideas, you sit down and
work on it together. This happens constantly.
Everyone learns from everyone, all the time.
Dynamicland is a computer where people literally work together,
face-to-face, with eye contact and many hands. It’s as multiplayer
as the real world.
Agency, not apps.
No normal person sees an app
and thinks “I can make that myself.”
Or even “I can modify that
to do what I actually need.”
Computational media in Dynamicland
feels like stuff anyone can make.
Pens, scissors, and staplers are
genuinely powerful tools here.
Make interactive books
with tape and a hole punch.
A humane dynamic medium gently leads people down a path
from playing, to crafting, to remixing, to programming.
Programs are small, because the real world does most
of the work. Programs are flexible, and compose readily.
But most importantly — programs are real things.
You touch them. You see them everywhere —
they can only run when visible. You can change
anything and see what happens. No black boxes.
Everyone is constantly grabbing and remixing each other’s work,
because it’s all just there. Mash-ups happen in seconds. The
social dynamics of programming here are completely bonkers.
Dynamicland is an authoring environment, and everyone is an author.
People make what they need for themselves. They learn through immersion.
The true power of the dynamic medium — programmability — is for everyone.
Thinking like a whole human.
People think with their hands.
People think with their bodies.
People spread out
A humane dynamic medium embraces the countless
ways in which human beings use their minds and bodies,
instead of cramming people into a tiny box of pixels.
One guest, after spending time at Dynamicland, held up
his smartphone and shouted, “This thing is a prison!”
Dynamicland is a communal computer,
designed for agency, not apps,
where people can think like whole humans.
It’s the next step in our mission to
incubate a humane dynamic medium
whose full power is accessible to all people.
A community space and possible future.
If the dynamic medium is to serve as the foundation for new modes of thought and communication, it must lift all people, not just those traditionally advantaged by technology. There is no product we can ship to achieve this goal.
Instead, we are building Dynamicland as a community space, where the people of Oakland will come to “live in the future” and shape the medium with us. We are actively drawing our community from a diverse set of people, with a focus on those who are underserved or alienated by current forms of computing.
This community space is a model for a new kind of civic institution —
a public library for 21st-century literacy.
One step in a 50-year project.
2014: CDG research lab was co-founded by Alan Kay and Bret Victor to reinvent computing for the 21st century. The Dynamicland vision and technology emerged from years of exploration, hundreds of working prototypes, and multiple whole-system iterations.
2018: Founding Dynamicland. We’re leaving the lab, and building the first full-scale realization of the vision. The community space will be the hub, with satellite installations in libraries, classrooms, science labs, and arts venues.
2022: Dynamicland Oakland. Over four years, the community space will transition from a site of experimentation to a self-sufficient public institution. Research will then shift to the next experimental site.
2040: A dynamicland in every neighborhood, following the model of the Carnegie libraries a century ago. Like libraries and museums, these dynamiclands will be run by the local community and reflect the local culture, in contrast to franchised clones or mass-produced products. Perhaps existing libraries will be dynamiclands.
2060: The dynamic medium, everywhere, built into all infrastructure as electric lighting is today. As a non-profit, we are free and obligated to do whatever it takes to ensure that this pervasive medium is safe and empowers all people, rather than prioritizing corporate or nefarious interests.
A 5000-year project.
Writing and print transformed humanity. Computing will have as great an effect. What will be the shape of this transformation?
Will it lift all people, or widen the gap? Give people agency, or give them products to consume? Bring people together, or isolate them? Deepen people’s connection to their bodies, their hands, and the real world we all depend on? Or abstract human beings into pixels and database entries?
The time to decide is now.