Microbes invented the human.

Tideland is a micronation of nearly four quadrillion residents located in the coastal territory between high and low tides. Here, humans are the utter minority—generally left to their own devices to parse the political arrangements of its nonhuman citizens. Communities of post-Capitalocene microbes rapidly populate, consume and reinvent their habitat with the rising and falling of the water; humans wander the shore, attempt to learn from alternate forms of governance—even offer their own bodies as vessels for the evolving metabiome of Tideland.


The setting might seem familiar—built atop human waste and reclaimed by the sea—but Tideland is a nation humans are only starting to understand. Its politics and economy, its hierarchies and its will. Some humans frequent its shore, others are perpetually there—physically in the flesh, and essentially in the signatures of their own microbiomes left behind, immigrated and inducted into  the ebbs and flows of Tideland.

Creative Destruction

Tidelanders value the connections among its citizenry, the sorts of symbioses, dependencies, and competitions that ultimately power a creative coevolution. The creatures here are addicted to a collaborative, creative destruction and reinvention, a cycle, like the tide itself, that lubricates their habitat, leaves nothing static, circulates citizens across the territory of massive and ever-changing genetic diversity toward new innovations.

This relational emphasis manifests in the genetics of Tidelanders, but it is made visible atop the bodies of local human residents. These humans consider themselves both passive carriers and active collaborators in the creations. Their wearables provide an interface to communicate with the microbes. For example, the wrinkles on their sleeves accumulate micro species and nutrients for creative collaborations to happen.

Nonhuman Agency


Are these humans considered citizens? Arguments have gone both ways. They have certainly sought ways to expand their role as host, as a body-vessel and facilitator of the rapid tidal evolution. Other humans have come here to study its politics—if only to grasp its rules, to see and reflect back, find the transferrable and the profitable elements of a nonhuman-centric model of governance.

At points throughout the year, an unpredictable cadre of human lawyers appear on the banks of Tideland for what the most skeptical call a thought experiment, the most desperate a revolution, the most cynical a fleeting moment of hope.

Property Regimes

Most recently, a band of copyright lawyers came to assist in the distribution of royalties from Barrierland. They left confident they had discovered the bio-legal framework of intellectual property on the shore: that, because the creative work of Tideland citizens is washed away with the rising and falling of their waters, recognition for creative work must be attributed to a relationship among species—including their genetic heritage—rather than any single or group of individuals.

In these moments, many visitors have described the bluntness of human law and language, and have felt its primitiveness: “The limits of our perception, like our fingers, make us stumble through these encounters—just barely aware, able to touch—but unable to lift.”