Words by Caroline Bach
Detroit is on sale, inch by inch, and for just a dollar you can own a piece of it. Welcome to Loveland.
Loveland is the brainchild of futurist entrepreneur Jerry Paffendorf, and the first project of the Why Don’t We Own This? (WDWOT) division in his even larger ambition, The Crazy Company (yes, Crazy Company.) WDWOT explores the notion of enabling the general public to collaboratively create what would not be possible in a solo effort. Through the “micro-payments” of individuals, WDWOT can create grande-scale projects for the people by the people. The first of these projects, Loveland, will reside in Detroit, Michigan. Jerry and friends are grafting a million square inch grid in Detroit with the hopes of selling each square inch unit to buyers all over the world for a dollar per inch.
Inch owners will have material and virtual control of their inches, a “Physical Sim City”, as Jerry describes it.
“Part of the magic is that we don’t really know what will happen! Its an adventure, its a story, its a good time, and we hope it blossoms into something amazing.”
Currently Jerry splits his time between Brooklyn, San Francisco and Detroit, furiously fanning the fires of Loveland. The following interviw took place over the course of a week via email.
WC: Hi Jerry, where are you today?
Jerry: I’m in my room in San Francisco, one of the nicest, most progressive, and highly functioning cities in the world.
WC: So tell me about this project of yours, Loveland. How’d you come up with that one?
Jerry: Well, have you ever seen Ghostbusters?
WC: Ummm…. only like a million times.
Jerry: Ha ha. Awesome, me too. Actually we watched it here again the other night. There’s a bunch of things I like about Ghostbusters. I think it’s sort of the ultimate story of a startup. Startups (I mean startups broadly as any new venture in business or art or whatever that’s just getting itself off the ground, going from idea to thing) believe in things that don’t yet exist, and Ghostbusters is about a few people who quite literally believe in something that doesn’t exist: ghosts. But as they start working seriously on Ghostbusting as a business, ghosts start appearing in the city, and there’s plenty of important work for them to do.
At the end of the movie there’s a great scene where the ghost god tells them they have to “choose the form of the destructor”. Basically anything they think about, whatever it is, is going to materialize and destroy the world. Ray can’t help but try and think of something nice and harmless, and so the Stay-Puft marshmallow man shows up in Godzilla-size to stomp New York.
When I think about new projects, I don’t know exactly where these ideas come from, but I try and choose the form of the *constructor* — something as fun and offbeat as the Stay-Puft marshmallow man, but that’s come to create a world, not destroy one. In the case of the project I’m working on now, with Loveland, the form of the constructor is inches. Square inches of land or real space. Lots of them, controlled and created on by lots of different people, like an ecto-containment unit for ideas.
Ha ha. I should probably stop talking about Ghostbusters. That’s sort of a weird thing to say.
WC: Weird, perhaps, but Jerry, I doubt you’ve ever been accused of being normal. I kind of love it.
Jerry: I actually was accused of being normal once, but the charges were dropped and I was able to visit the White House to have a beer and talk about it. It was a painful experience but ultimately a teachable moment.
WC: Amazing. Why build Loveland in Detroit?
Jerry: I was getting spidey signals this had to happen in Detroit. It’s a great American city with amazing history and energy and opportunity at the same time as there’s high unemployment, population decline, vacancy and outright abandonment. It’s transitioning from something old to something new. Really, what better place to experiment with a crowd-creating a tiny new city over the internet that exists for real? And to be sure, there’s no simpler way to invest in the future of Detroit and have your own space there than buying inches. Vacationing in your summer inch in Detroit is going to be the next big thing.
WC: Hmmmm, micro timeshares perhaps. So how can I buy me some love?
Jerry: Right now you can pre-purchase inches by becoming an “inchvestor” in Loveland while we work through making it real. A couple months ago I heard about a website called Kickstarter that lets you post projects you’re working on along with fundraising goals so the people that want to see them happen can easily chip in to help kick-start them. It was like, where have you been all my life??
If you go to makeloveland.com [ADD LINK: www.makeloveland.com] there’s a link to the Kickstarter site where you can get your future inches, from just 1 for $1 up to a million if you want. (People who inchvest at this early stage get founding forefather and foremother status that’ll come into play later.)
WC: So people are already purchasing inches?
Jerry: Check this out: http://www.1000inchesinloveland.blogspot.com. My very creative friend Rita King is outdoing herself (no easy task) on this. She purchased 1,000 inches and is basically creating a big neighborhood in Loveland with different zones and inviting interesting people to move in and then covering everything that happens there like a reporter. She’s also using “augmented reality” codes on inches that let you layer graphics on top of real things when you look at them through cameras (just click on anything in a twitter search for augmented reality http://twitter.com/#search?q=augmented%20reality ) so an inch can be much bigger than an inch.
Then there’s also a bunch of people who’ve gotten 12 inches because it’s fun to say “I’ve got 12 inches in Detroit.”
WC: Well, as Frank Zappa once said, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”
WC: ladies and gentlemen, Jerry Paffendorf
Jerry: Thank you.