✘ Community isn't a new thing
And: AI & Copyright; The rise of the Creator Economy; Eight years of shesaid.so; An optimistic take on the future of music; Who are we building Music NFTs for?
We’re not inventing community here in 2022. A lot of what we see today, especially in active communities around creators on Patreon or Twitch, is closely related to communities that came before. Similarly, a lot of my favourite communities in Web3 take after earlier Internet communities, even going back to the forum-based Internet of the 1990s. It’s important to realize this, because we often tend to towards a new thing as if it is this shiny object we’ve never seen or heard before that will radically change everything. Instead, whatever that thing is, it’s rooted in a history. Acknowledging that actually strengthens our thinking about it and allows us to better engage with it. Moreover, understanding community - in this case - within a broader context allows us to see it as something more valuable than just a new concept. Community is a way to structure a group of people around a shared narrative. And that’s been studied for many, many years already.
From individual to group to interdependence
Thinking about the history of community takes into works of sociologists who have studied human behaviour and its accompanying power structures. Take, for example, German sociologist Norbert Elias ideas around the individual versus the group. Since Elias takes a strong cue from Freud and psychoanalysis more generally, even the group consists of individuals. This leads him to consider that we, as persons, undergo two different developments. The first is a process of individualization. In this, we become and learn who we are as ourselves, as a distinct person. The second is a process related to what Elias calls the 'we-image’. In that, we also become and learn but then who we are as a person within a group. Both of these developments happen within the fluctuations of our networks - from our nuclear families to the nations we live in.
Most Western philosophy up until Elias had thought about people as a self-contained individuals. With Elias, we suddenly understood that we should think about people as having multiple identities and each of those identities comes through shared social experiences. Elias subsequently spent a lot of time looking at what constitutes ‘proper’ behaviour in Western society. There’s a strong tendency among people to create sets of rules for how to behave. This reflects itself in our business copy guides, unspoken rules of conduct in Twitter Spaces, or what to do and what not to do in a certain Discord. In other words, those rules for behaviour that allow individuals to understand how to behave in a groups have long underpinned any community. Since we all operate in multiple groups through multiple identities Elias, in his research, extends himself to show how interdependent we are as people. In very basic terms, there’s no use seeing yourself as standing separate from society or as a fully sovereign human beholden only to yourself. All the networks we operate in shape who and what we are.
Into community thinking
There’s strong parallels to what Elias already wrote about in the middle of the last century and how I think about community now. If we start by understanding ourselves not as fully autonomous individuals but as networked and interdependent creatures, we are already close to the idea of a minimum viable community operating fluidly within and through multiple groups within a broader community.
If we then extend Elias’s work with his fellow German sociologist Hartmut Rosa, we can start to see a way in which all of us, as actors within a community of communities, are constantly moving. Rosa built on Elias’ work by further developing the idea that we’re all constantly moving and always in the process of becoming. For Rosa, community is not so much a place or something that we are a part of, but rather a process. Throughout these communities we resonate as people. What I find valuable in this thinking about resonance is that it shows how our actions have a lingering effect. Like throwing a pebble in a lake and watching the rings extend outwards, all of our actions have a similarly extending effect.
Moreover, the resonances of our actions happen within our networks. If you’re within one squad this also resonates to other people and groups within the networked community. This creates the interdependency that Elias already spoke about and that we now see come through community thinking - especially when it concerns the Web3. But again, this isn’t new. The way we organize ourselves in the digital worlds we inhabit is basically just an extension of the way we relate socially more generally speaking. Consider this description from American cultural critic Howard Rheingold from 1992:
“A virtual community as they exist today is a group of people who may or may not meet one another face to face, and who exchange words and ideas through the mediation of computer bulletin boards and networks. In cyberspace, we chat and argue, engage in intellectual intercourse, perform acts of commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, find friends and lose them, play games and metagames, flirt, create a little high art and a lot of idle talk. We do everything people do when people get together, but we do it with words on computer screens, leaving our bodies behind. Millions of us have already built communities where our identities commingle and interact electronically, independent of local time or location. The way a few of us live now might be the way a larger population will live, decades hence.”
Many, if not all, of us now live deeply digital and asynchronous lives. However, there’s a much stronger focus on how we can build community in the digital world we now inhabit than back in 1992. On top of that, we see the importance of operating within a community of communities and how we can move and change as people within those communities. The work of people like Elias and Rosa helps us to better situate our understanding of community and what it means for us to be a part of one. Let’s not pretend community is a new thing, it’s not, and we can learn about how to assemble communities and behave within them by understanding that history.
©️ The CMA’s shares its thoughts on a ‘pro-innovation’ approach to regulating artificial intelligence (Cynthia O’Donoghue, Marjorie Holmes, Vaibhav Adlakha, Alexander Pierce & Michaela Hanzelova)
“The CMA has encouraged the government to consider existing powers and how they may need to be updated to keep up with the pace of innovation. It agrees that a ‘light touch’ approach, using existing regulatory powers, may be appropriate whilst AI technology is in the early stages of its development. However, the government and regulators must evolve their position and respond in an agile manner as AI technologies develop. This may also mean introducing new powers or capabilities for regulators, where risks associated with particular applications arise.”
✘ Not everyone’s cup of tea, I’m sure, but this is so important right now. Everyone seems to talk about and experiment with AI, but how does it relate to copyright? And, how do we regulate this properly. In the UK, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) put out a policy paper on how to approach this thorny topic. The Competition & Markets Authority then published a response saying the government should take a “risk-based approach.” The above article is the response from respected law firm Reed Smith and is a fairly easy way into the subject. If you’re keen to learn more:
🌊 The Rise of the Creatory Economy (Richard Florida)
“The Creator Economy is the broader economic and social infrastructure that enables the work of Creators. It comprises the technological and economic ecosystem in which Creators do their work and engage their audiences, including digital platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Substack, and Patreon; the digital tools that Creators use; startup companies; and the broader infrastructure of people and companies that support Creators’ efforts to do their work and generate revenue.”
✘ Well, well, Meta went out of its way here. If you don’t know him, Richard Florida has had a tremendous impact on the way that many cities around the world have tried to reinvent themselves as creative hubs since the 1990s. Now, Meta commissioned him to write this report. Ostensibly independently, but that doesn’t exist. Still, it’s a great report to dig into. I expect to see this quoted a lot by companies and founders operating in and around the creator economy.
🎉 Eight years of shesaid.so (Andreea Magdalina)
“New questions around identity, community, economic value, inflation, digital governance, privacy and ownership have emerged, pushing the music creative industries to reimagine their place in the world and on the internet. shesaid.so is no stranger to these questions. As a community, it feels we have arrived at a crossroads: on one hand, we have accomplished our mission to drive awareness of diversity and inclusion, and, on the other, it feels as if this newfound social awareness has created more polarization than ever before. If conversation awareness were our goals thus far, where do we go from here? What is our place in the music business today and moving forward? Who are we and how do we capture this ever evolving communal agency that makes us, authentically us?”
✘ Firstly, happy belated birthday to shesaid.so! Secondly, I can’t wait to see what they will make of the answers to these questions in 2023 and beyond.
📝 Why Musicians & Other Creative Professionals Will Soon Get Their Revenge on the Old Guard (Ted Gioia)
“For 25 long, hard years, creative professionals have been told that you must give away things for free. But not anymore. Alternative economic models are not only emerging, but are propelling the fastest growing platforms in arts and entertainment.”
✘ This is quite the read. Tell me you’re not feeling optimistic as well after reading this.
👷 Who are we building Music NFTs for? (Blaire Michael)
✘ Not sure I’ve done this before, but this links out to a Twitter Spaces that everyone who’s only mildly interested in the Web3 should listen to. It’s always going to be about the consumer and this Spaces goes into why we perhaps aren’t seeing the artist-fan relationships flowing from the Web2 into the Web3 as might have expected.
Nia Archives is one of my favourite artists to come out of the UK Jungle scene in recent years. I love the revival of this sound and I love it even more that there’s amazing artists like Nia Archives who put the revival firmly in our current age. Get dancing!