Beacon Book: Graphics & Narratives

0xc57c
July 27th, 2021

This post is an exploration of the graphics and narratives used throughout the Beacon Book,a collection of perspectives from 46 researchers and implementers that worked on the Ethereum Beacon Chain.

The full text of the Beacon Book went live on Tuesday, July 6th, alongside a series of 7 NFTs taken directly from the book. We're opening the auction for the 100 physical Genesis Editions soon. Sign up below to be notified when the auction begins and is close to ending.

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Introduction

At its core, the Beacon Book is a dual tribute to both the Beacon Chain builders and the Ethereum community. This post is a meta-outline of the visual techniques and considerations used to express a number of themes, including:

  • juxtaposition of human vs geological / social scales;
  • physical vs digital;
  • the otherworldly nature of this technology;
  • the symbiotic relationship between a community and what it builds, the machine that builds the machine, the garden that tends itself.

Each section below follows this format: Title (Page Number). Commentary is paired with 11 of the 30 spreads from the book. The seven two page spreads were minted as NFTs within the original text, and can be viewed here. Where applicable, there are short descriptions that were minted as part of the NFT metadata:

NFT descriptions are in this formatting

Primary minting availability is noted in italics.

  1. Commentary is in numbered point form.
  2. Here you will find discussion of the graphic elements, as well as points on What It Means.

Please note that the interpretations here describe possibilities, but are by no means "official." Make your own narratives, your own meanings. Let's begin!


Back and Front Covers

Left: back cover / Right, front cover

  1. A fully suited astronaut stands in almost complete darkness, arm outstretched to their left side. The only illumination comes from three pure white orbs hovering over the open hand, casting a faint glow onto the arm and torso. Overlaying the orbs are three phrases: "Beacon Book," "Stateful Works," and "Genesis Edition."
  2. This anonymous character simultaneously represents the researchers and implementers, as well as the supporting community that has followed the Beacon Chain since Serenity.
  3. This is a physical book, with a front and back cover. It can be held, paged through and bent. It's a reaction against the almost exclusively digital experience of crypto communities. This is an artifact you can hold in your hands, a material representation of the researchers you follow. It materializes the ephemeral nature of community participation. Your book contains their stories, and your ownership of the book makes you part of the larger story: Ethereum's story.

Internal Cover (i-ii)

  1. The first page of content is almost completely white, save for the three circles from the cover reproduced in the same position. However, here they are negatives, punching through the white page to reveal a bright red landscape beneath. The edge of the voids cast a sickle-shaped shadow onto the landscape below. Sitting on the landscape under the shadow are the same three phrases from the cover.
  2. A dotted black line cuts across the page at the same angle of the shadows, intersecting two smaller white circles. These two circles cast the same shadow as the three voids. Let's call this "the sundial."

Provenance (1-2)

  1. The majority of this spread is the red landscape: texture and colors emerge. A floating white tablet hovers over it, punched through with a ring, casting shadows. A diagonal line passes over and under the white components, graphic elements which are repeated on subsequent pages.
  2. Relative to the previous spread, the cast shadow shifts, almost imperceptibly. This pattern will be maintained on each successive page throughout the rest of the book.
  3. Some time has passed, and the sundial rotates to match the shift in the cast shadow.
  4. The right page contains space for unique provenance attributes. The upper portion has space to mark the edition, eg. 1/100. The bottom half of the tablet contains a grid for book owners to write a personally meaningful transaction hash to make this copy truly theirs. At the bottom, a set of lines for marking other edition information.

Introduction (3-4)

  1. This is the first spread which contains copy, introducing the participating characters and outlining the vision for the book.
  2. A semicircular void is cut out of the white background, again revealing the tones of the red soil beneath. This repeats in several variations throughout the rest of the book.
  3. On the right page, a new graphic element: a space-suited hand extends into the frame to present a white tablet filled with text.
  4. This is the hand of the astronaut mirroring your own as you hold the book. This is the community, the researchers, the developers, and you as coequal participant. This is human agency shaping immaterial infrastructure. In turn, their book of profiles frames your story.

"Continuations" (7-8)

We've always been moving. There is no neat beginning, only a point when we become aware of our place the stories, our story.

This spread is available to mint as an NFT within the Beacon Book text.

  1. This is the first of the NFT series launched with the digital text. We see the same red landscape as in previous spreads. Floating traincars, covered in vents and antennae, loaded with large wooden crates move slowly along the dry, hot landscape. Walking alongside the vehicle is the same character from the cover, plus four more. Their footprints leave a faint imprint in the crunching surface. The figures cast a long, crisp shadow, almost in line with their path of travel, which is incidentally the same angle as the diagonal lines on the previous two spreads.
  2. A white frame sits at on the outer edge of the pages, casting the same angle of shadow as the landscape contained within. The shadow falls on the landscape without differentiation relative to the objects, as if it were the flat surface of a print. Are we witnessing the scene as external observers? Or is this a record of our collective past and future? Historic, cinematic, participatory.
  3. Within the frame are a series of text objects. In the top left, a 0x hash sequence with 64 characters. This is the 0 slot block root from the start of the Beacon Chain on Dec 5th, 2020. This pattern repeats on each of the subsequent graphic spreads. On the right side is an unidentified alphanumeric string.
  4. The astronauts are us, the researchers, the community: one and the same. Anonymous to the observer, confident in their purpose, comfortable in their unfamiliar environment. Our vantage point shows the small human details of their stride, their posture, their humanity. They are on a journey which has always being ongoing.

"Caravans" (11-12)

Resources, effort, coordination, logistics. The material realities to ensure the success of a venture. Careful contingency planning over the years.

This spread is available to mint as an NFT within the Beacon Book text.

  1. The border frame zooms out even further, allowing us to see a broader view of the resources needed to complete the journey. In addition to large and small crates, there are large reels of cable, and frames holding linear tube. Most of the astronauts continue alongside the train on foot, resolutely maintaining their diagonal intent.
  2. The shadow growing from the feet of the characters shortens again as the sun climbs higher in the sky. Is this the same day? Are days hundreds of hours on this planet? Time is a poor yardstick - after all, we are here to see the journey through to the end.
  3. At the top left of the frame, the first slot hash from the Beacon Chain, with its block graffiti in the lower right: "Mr F was here." On the left side is another unidentified string.

"Discovery" (17-18)

Found objects. Breakthroughs and productive interference are a happy pair. Planned and unexpected deviations from the spec.

  1. Our frame steps back slightly, the characters occupying less of the frame. They have happened upon a previously constructed foundation, crowned with rusted rebar.
  2. The deposit contract has been located. Satisfied with its soundness, it's time to build.
  3. The top right of the frame has the text of the second slot hash, the left another string, the bottom right the grafitti "BTCS Zug validator."

Edgington - Beekhuizen (19-20)

  1. Another recurring graphic element are hands reaching in from out of frame: an echo of the introduction spread. Including the cover, there are seven occurrences of different hands.
  2. At this point, the Sundial is rotated nearly 45° below horizontal, with the shadow angles to match.

"Build - Maintain" (23-24)

The shape of what we're crafting appears, bit by bit. The continued application of effort yields progress. Vision and belief form narratives.

  1. Our vantage point continues its steady progress backwards, encompassing a sprawling construction site. The trains have stopped and are being unloaded, materials staged next to the deposit contract foundation. The community has poured a new concrete base on top, and added the first section of the tower: two Ethereum logos peek out from within the struts. Additional wires are added to stabilize the structure.
  2. The acts of building and maintaining are two sides of the same coin, in a similar relationship as what builders offers to their community.
  3. The top right of the frame has the text of the third Beacon Chain slot hash, and an string of text to the right.

"Seen and Seeing" (29-30)

Anticipation builds, the community gathers to witness transition. Grassroots infrastructure emerges from a fertile soil.

  1. Construction continues apace, with 2 more tower sections added and anchored by stay wires. As it nears completion, the participants gather to witness. The trains are emptied of their goods and put to the side - there's not much else to do but wait until the appointed time. Six Ethereum logos occupy the center of the unfinished tower.
  2. The success of the Beacon Chain launch was due in no small part to the grassroots community of passionate validators. This spread is an homage to their observations, reports, bug-fixes, tests and claimed POAPs.
  3. The frame contains a strong to the left, the fourth slot hash, and that slot's graffiti: "🐠 Welcome to the New Beginning"

"Traditions" (35-36)

Bated breath, ticking forward into change. There is joy in the shared collective experience of a milestone reached, challenges conquered.

  1. Participants and observers have gathered to witness the massive accomplishment of the Beacon finally being operational! After many years of research, scrapped roadmaps, implementations, testing: the first milestone is complete.
  2. Continuing its steady clockwise drift, the shadow seems to pause and resolves into an Ethereum logo.
  3. A regular tradition of the Ethereum community is watch parties for upgrade transitions. The Beacon Chain launch had the entire community sitting in nervous anticipation, waiting to step past the threshold of a years-long journey. It was finally here, and worth celebrating.
  4. Validator 18675 missed their appointed slot; as such there is no slot hash. One text string sits on both the left and right.

"Onward" (57-58)

We've always been moving. There is no clear end, only the continuous challenge to make our work accessible to those outside our orbit. We're aware of the story, and now we write the next chapter.

  1. Our frame of reference takes one final step back to reveal our broadest view of the landscape. To close out the book, we're presented with a fractal loop between society and human agency. Our protagonists pass through the hand of society, beginning to engage. This is the same hand that held the orbs on the cover, and held our stories throughout the book. This is the context we build within and for, the physical places we occupy.
  2. The sun has dropped low into the horizon, beckoning the group forward.
  3. The narrative arc of Progress >> Resolution was resolved within "Traditions," but it's important to remember that we don't build in a vaccum, and the journey is far from over. We still need to pursue The Merge, statelessness, data and execution sharding, VDFs, ZKPs - not to mention making these powerful tools operable for those outside our niche.
  4. Our final frame has the 6th slot hash from the Beacon Chain, as well as its graffiti: "poapcRzSC/a0Ns7TJ6jGWhRJGqBMLKEB." A final string of letters and numbers sits to on the left of the frame.

Thank you for reading this graphic explication of the Beacon Book, we hope it was interesting to learn about the graphic themes and narratives expressed throughout. Your role as a participant is crucial to the soul of what we're building together.


The full text of the Beacon Book went live on Tuesday, July 6th, alongside a series of 7 NFTs taken directly from the book. We're opening the auction for the 100 physical Genesis Editions soon. Sign up below to be notified when the auction begins and is close to ending.

Read and Mint here

Sign up to be notified

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