✖️ The Web3 is not a (singular) space
And: Hardcore emo meets AI; Music NFTs 101; The rewiring of niche; Co-op lessons for DAOs; Music's financialization and perpetual copyright; Missy Elliot
The Web3 feels like a space. It is not. Before I dissect why it’s not a space and why it’s important to see it for what it is, I’ll outline the contributing factors that make this blockchain-oriented domain of internet culture feel like a space.
It’s not easy to get started yet. In theory, all it takes is a wallet address, but you need to learn about basic security, seed phrases, how to do transfers, how to login with your wallet, how to interact with smart contracts, and how to watch out for scams. If all you want is to make or collect some art, then braving the learning curve of running your own decentralized bank account is a high barrier. Many don’t bother with that barrier, which means that the contrast between those who have and those who haven’t gets amplified due to the fact that the web3-onboarded have to find new communities to interact with.
Operating close to the code
In matured parts of the web, the only time the typical user sees code in their browser is if something is broken. In the case of web3, you see code (or variables & parameters) all the time, for example whenever you sign a message with your Metamask.
We’re operating very close to the technology layer which is normally obscured. That’s not for everyone and that also makes it hard. This means people have to work together to figure things out, educate each other and console each other when someone makes an expensive mistake.
The code is always there when we use the web. The web3 makes that more visible, for now. (perhaps aspects of that should stay, or as NFT marketplace Foundation founder Kayvon Tehranian puts it: Crypto wants to be seen)
There are so many talented people working on the design problems that underly the hurdles to onboarding more people into the space. Everyone has a sense of the fact that sooner or later many more folks will ‘enter the space’ through increased convenience and a wider variety of reasons to interact with web3 technologies (more dApps, more communities, more subcultures, etc).
The fact that we’re early means that the community is relatively small. We bump into each other in various contexts online and offline. We share aesthetic awareness: the subculture of web3 is defined by the art trends of the digital native scenes that turned to NFTs over the past 18 months. We are all exposed to similar aesthetics; we know this of each other, and we know others know this of us. This creates a sense of shared culture or subculture.
That sense of shared culture is, mostly, an illusion. The shared identity we see is the tip of the iceberg - it’s our web3 identity. Below the surface comes all the rest.
The great divergence
I don’t mean to say that the web3 doesn’t have its own norms and standards. It’s rebellious and defiant. There’s a belief that power & value should go to the network and not to an extractive platform. These shared beliefs are emphasised, often leaving aside or unquestioned people’s underlying motivations. To take just one example, this means we currently see libertarian VCs and socialists operating or even collaborating in shared spaces. I think this is super fascinating and more akin to the rise of Web 1.0 than Web 2.0.
Fascinating or not, it doesn’t mean we’re in the same space. I’m a bit of a social chameleon and move in many circles, but ‘home’ is in the underground. I put social and societal principles over money - as do most people in the social circles I call home. So when we talk about the web3 as a space, it begs the question: do I want to onboard my circles into a space where toxic DeFi bros denounce cancel culture, but not racism? Where some of these people troll, meme and bully others in the same anonymous way as the folks who took to Twitter to meme Trump into power in the run up to the 2016 US elections? That’s not our space. We move in different communities, go to different concerts, and have different backgrounds and long-term outlooks.
(I love DeFi btw - just not the actors in it who think there’s nothing wrong with behaviour that is categorically exclusionary of other people)
Put the dial forward 5 years: the so-called ‘space’ may now have 500 million people in it. Maybe even 1 billion. Will things still feel like one space? Do we currently feel connected to each other over the fact that we use social media tools rather than email? Or is it more a fun fact rather than a shared social context, like “hey! I also prefer to text and not call” or “hey, I also secretly use TikTok as a 30+ year old.”
I don’t think the space will splinter or fall apart, rather we’ll see the space for what it is. The Web3 space is composed of converged sets of individuals and communities all leveraging this technology along their own paths. A trajectory is not visible upon launch, but over time, these paths will diverge and new cultural spaces will form.
I care a lot about the foundations of these paths. What’s exciting about being on the ground is that many of us are still determining our trajectories and considering what the tools and who the people are we are going to need along the way, but this is not a singular space. We’re all packing our own caravans. We are forming new communities in this temporary space we now refer to as web3. Once more of us set off, that space will become as wide as the distance we diverge in, until it no longer looks like a space.
Why it’s important to consider this is that in the long-term, the most important contributors to our projects and communities will no longer feel like they’re onboarding into the ‘web3 space’. They’re onboarding to your space. What are its values?
I’ll be chatting about Web3 & Nightlife tomorrow (Wednesday eve CET) with The Willow Tree DAO, GET Protocol and folks from various other projects. Line up here. RSVP for the Twitter Space here.
🎶 Music NFTs 101: an Artist-to-Artist guide (camoufly)
This is probably the best beginners’ guide I’ve seen recently. If you’re curious about the space, but don’t even know what a blockchain is - get started here. If you’re already familiar with the basics, scroll past the first part.
💰 The Rewiring of the Niche: Selling Out, Commons Databases, & NFTs (Simon de la Rouviere)
“New technology can change our relationships. When this happens, it both enables new ones to flourish while at the same time reframing or destroying old relationships. The former can be joyous, wonderful, and the latter can hurt and be depressing. A blockchain, a database in the commons, does both.”
🥺 Fake Feelings - AI demo (Dadabots)
When post-hardcore emo band Silverstein approached our Berlin-based art collective about a collab, AI emo seemed like a perfectly ironic thing to make exist
🤝 What Co-ops and DAOs Can Learn From Each Other (Austin Robey)
“At the end of the day, the best framework for an organization may not be a choice between a cooperative or DAO model, but a blend of both. Incorporating cooperative values into crypto networks could take the form of a traditional cooperative that bootstraps its network through on-chain tokenized contributions.”
📈 How The Financialization Of Music Could Lead To Demands For Perpetual Copyright (Glyn Moody)
“The more the owners of copyrights become detached from the creative production process, the less they will care about the nominal balances within the system.”
It’s time to break out all the Missy Elliot classics.
it's a non-place.