✖Science Fiction, Web3 and Decentralization, or two ways of reinterpreting the meaning of Decentralization
And: How tech helped musicians melt the gender binary; Study on gender inequalities in the music business; Gender Pronouns; A guide to gender-neutral language
Hi everyone, we have a very special MUSIC x take-over this week. Antxnio Graz is a queer cyborg musician, classically trained but nowadays mixing those skills with electronics and more experimental approaches. As a musician, their first EP is due for release this year. As a human, they’re working actively on more inclusivity across the music industry and in Web3 specifically. Originally from the south of Spain and now based in Montreal, antxnio hopes to impress upon you the need to broaden the scope of what decentralization is and can be.
Undoubtedly, among the praises of the Web3 space (by the way, is Web3 a single space?) there is an idea that is repeated almost obsessively: the possibility of building a decentralized financial system. According to an English dictionary, the first two definitions of the term “decentralize” are: 1. To distribute the administrative powers or functions of (a central authority) over a less concentrated area; and 2. To disperse (something) from an area of concentration.
Based on these definitions, it would be logical to use this concept of decentralization beyond the obvious economic benefits it provides. This article does not seek solutions, but reflects on two alternative ways of thinking about decentralization in Web3.
Xeno-Web3 (gender decentralization)
If we do brief research of NFT sales, it is clear that the Web3 skews male (hi, crypto bros!). According to BFF - a Crypto community for people who identify as Woman and Nonbinary - 81% of cryptocurrency buyers identify as male, as of 2021. As might be expected, Web3 is currently nothing more than a reflection of what is happening in both the analog world and Web2, where the base is built from a Western perspective and, more specifically, from that of the white cis-male. Fortunately for Web3, it is a relatively new ecosystem where there is still a lot of room for solutions, implementations, and change.
To begin with, it is necessary to elaborate a discourse from xeno-hospitality. Using the Greek term xenos - meaning ‘stranger’ in its most common translation - from the perspective of the collective Laboria Cuboniks, Web3 spaces urgently need to migrate their policies and narrative discourses towards a Xeno-Web3 space to welcome and celebrate the stranger, the outsider or the alien, and create safe and hospitable spaces for those.
Projects such as aGENDAdao and Queer Museum of Digital Art are examples of communities where xenos, or more popularly said, the queer community, are embraced. But it is necessary that an effort is made by the most consolidated projects in the market so that they do not remain exclusively in small paradisiacal islands in front of a vast and hostile ocean – and in any case, none of these spaces are specifically dedicated to music.
As in the parallel world of Web3, English is the common language of international communications and usually required to inhabit these new spaces. From a superficial – but mostly financial – perspective, it is ideal to have a common language for interconnection between different cultures and societies. However, this creates linguistic gaps (there are many reasons why a person is unable to learn English) and, consequently, the creation of privileges for some over others.
Decentralizing the language would give way to an openness to embrace different voices, necessary to create a more inclusive, accessible and richer approach; it would create spaces and communities for non-English speakers to express themselves and in a more business-focused perspective, it would facilitate onboarding to Web3, thus broadening the audience.
This is a latent discourse among different communities and it raises many questions and different approaches. The most far-reaching translation project is the Ethereum Translation Program, in which the official Ethereum website is being translated into a large number of languages.
Among the Spanish-speaking community, examples of early implementations are projects such as ENS DAO and Water & Music - with the idea of making its contents available in Spanish - led by Marcus Martínez and Martín Giraldo respectively. In addition, there are also DAOs with exclusive content in Spanish, such as FUTURX (Nicolas Madoery), a LatAm community for the music industry with a focus on technological challenges.
In conclusion, it is worth mentioning the direct relationship that language has with inclusivity. Studies such as that of Lera Boroditsky attempt to demonstrate that the way we speak can in fact shape the way that we think. It has become conventional for major Web2 platforms such as Twitter or Instagram to implement pronoun choices – it would be interesting to know if this is just a strategy to try to target the audience in order to improve their algorithms – just as it is common to see Discord servers with roles that users can assign themselves to show their pronouns.
Of course, these are necessary actions, but not sufficient. Especially, in languages that are grammatically gendered like Spanish, where each name has an associated gender (male or female). This should not be used as an excuse, but rather as a catalyst. Ideally, Web3 can be the embryo for the creation of a less heteropatriarchal and binary society and therefore, a decentralized society in its broadest concept. The possibilities and tools that are opening up are promising, but for the moment, we are closer to science fiction than to reality, as we seem to be stumbling over the same stone.
🌈Gender Pronouns – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Plus Resource Center (University of Wisconsin)
A guide and history of gender inclusive pronouns.
🤍A guide to how gender-neutral language is developing around the world (The Washington Post)
A review of different languages on resources to make language inclusive.
💪🏻 No shape: how tech helped musicians melt the gender binary (The Guardian)
“Lastly, I close my eyes and I see this naked being who exists in front of an audience. Everyone is simultaneously attracted to it and repulsed – it looks like it went through suffering but it’s beautiful … This being is actually aware of its sex as a weapon and as a threat. Xen is an ‘it.’ I lean towards calling Xen ‘her’ in response to the fact that society historically leans towards men having more power. Me calling Xen ‘her’ is an equalisation of that.”
Arca, experimental music artist
🔎Study on gender inequalities in the music business (MIDiA Research)
“These major challenges are symptomatic of deeper issues of systemic male dominance permeating industry attitudes and behaviours; over of our respondents said that they had experienced unconscious bias – nearly half of them frequently”
From Arca to Sam Smith. An immersion into music by "non-binary, gender-fluid, agender, genderqueer, and other artists beyond the binary."