CULTURAL HISTORY IN THE MAKING: WEB 3.0 SHIFTS CREATIVITY
Sept 25 I By Lené Pieters, Mixed Media NFT Artist and Tech Writer for Web3.0/Metaverse/NFTs
“As the planet becomes more interconnected, novel and effective modes of creating value are now discoverable, indelibly altering the cultural and financial terrain of the global futuristic Web 3.0 community.”
-Alyze Sam, The Nifty Encyclopedia, an Unbiased Definitive Guide to NFTs, Metaverse Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-949677-30-0
What a robust quote to unpack. We are experiencing the most volatile creative and cultural shift that has hit society since the Renaissance. No matter geographical location, cultural paradigm, or artistic output, Web 3.0 will affect all individuals and businesses as we move towards an ownership economy.
For centuries, creatives and artists mostly discovered one another when they were in the same town, travelled or through long-distance correspondence. Physical mail could take days or months. When they eventually arrived, along with a surprise box of small gifts or art supplies, they allowed external influences to enrich your artistic style.
The advent of web 1.0 in the mid-1990s brought us an instantaneous digital connection to most of humanity with simple URL websites, a forum for discussions, and basic e- commerce opened the door to a fully connected planet.
Artists were delighted to discover websites for art supplies and like-minded creative friends. Instead of merely meeting artists in real life, you made lifelong friends who lived worldwide for the cost of a dial-up internet subscription. The impact was profound, and perceived cultural creative boundaries became more fluid than ever before.
Web 2.0 introduced the world to social media and videos. The eager art community jumped at the chance to share digital versions of their work. Collaborations and instantaneous exchange of visual information was a significant leap forward in the global shift of art techniques and cultural trends.
Rapidly, methods were realized, intercommunicated, and disputed, engaging numerous unique creative compositions. Some historical innovations are sadly lost due to outdated hardware, failed back-ups, defunct websites, obsolete storage methods, and the fact that nobody thought to create digital legacies in case of tragedy.
Facebook is one such platform that connected thousands of artists and communities. With limitless content creation storage, people started sharing and reposting photos and knowledge. Maintaining regular artistic output without drowning in social media input overload took discipline. Many artists resisted the temptation to create a social media profile at all.
Galleries used social media to promote artists and curate exhibitions; the public lapped it up. Do you want an exclusive VIP feeling to be direct friends with famous artists on social media? The bragging rights alone did wonders for some creatives’ reputations, and they achieved more exposure than has ever been possible historically. While fine art mingled with crafts, crossover art started adapting to multimedia techniques, and everybody appeared joyful during a revolutionary digital age.
Until artists discovered copies of their work reposted by fraudsters claiming authenticity, a new threat resulted in a creative backlash against sharing anything on social media. To their dismay, many learned that online posts typically stay on the interweb permanently.
The lure of the viral phenomenon kept pulling creatives back into the digital spaces. With the advent of groups on social media, new art tribes were born. Some creatives collaborated internationally, and galleries stood by to curate the resulting incredible body of artwork. News outlets had an immediate abundance of materials for their viewers and cultural news became popular.
Many still printed inspiring images and techniques they found on social media sites, gluing them into reference books for later off-line perusal. People soon became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of inspiration in their possession and celebrated when an innovative site arrived: Pinterest! It was also more sustainable, good for the environment and at no cost.
They could now digitally “pin” the images that inspired them, whether it was an artwork, a technique, a recipe, or any image already published on the internet. The simple mechanism that let others see and re-pin your Pins was sheer genius. Images soon went viral, with thousands of re-pins, people following others and creating groups to collaborate and pin images together. Cultural norms blended in an ocean of imagery.
The ease of technology soon created another matter, with visual overload, copyright theft, and complaints causing digital-aged perils. Most broadcasted images online and expected them to remain private, but sadly were mistaken. Many artists found themselves in internal agony when their efforts yielded fewer sales but had many likes and shares on social media. Artists, unfortunately, discovered that popularity does not pay the bills.
In the meantime, a select group of tech and computer coding experts had been experimenting with blockchain. In this unique digital coding structure the information was visible to anyone with the technical ability to decode it. It also claimed to last forever. While working on various applications of this technology, the first cryptocurrency surfaced. There was a new player on the scene and the creatives did not quite know what to make of it. The experts referred to it as Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 and blockchain emerged with a game-changing solution called an NFT, a non- fungible token, where a digital file (in many formats) is encoded on the blockchain and can be bought and sold precisely like authentic artwork. The creator can use a built-in digital smart contract to earn a small commission every time the digital file (NFT) is sold to someone else. The tech people were buzzing about it. Media and other industry experts mocked the concept, saying it would never catch on and was essentially a waste of money to pay for a digital object. But the creatives’ ears perked up when they realized they could earn royalties on their creations, as musicians had done for decades.
Some creatives were already experimenting with Web 3.0 technology, primarily experienced in digital multimedia, including animation, filmmaking, digital photography, and sound recordings. Those revolutionary artists showcased their efforts on social media. It wasn't long before NFTs became a buzzword to throw around at gatherings and show off on the new breed of websites called NFT marketplaces.
Since the start of Web1.0, a deep divide began growing in terms of the “fine art versus craft versus digital art” debate and their perceived worth and cultural value. Intellectuals love nothing more than a good debate and Web 3.0 was surely not supposed to impact traditional artists at all. However, once the notoriety of NFTs selling for outrageous prices at established auction houses hit the media, more creatives started paying attention.
As with most new technologies, early adopters can be long-term winners. Though initially, there can be a steep learning curve in acquiring the right equipment, technical knowledge, and, of course, the financial outlay for creating art and minting the NFT (paying the coders to use their code) to lock your digital file on a blockchain forever.
Fear not; many institutions and companies are already presenting paid and free courses to help creatives achieve the technical skill to enter this new digital world. Some companies can do the work for creatives for a nominal fee. And the only natural barrier now is the attitude towards digitally altering traditional art to get the most benefit from it.
Unfortunately, the ease with which NFTs can now be minted has also resulted in an overwhelming crush of amateur art NFTs being minted daily. Reminiscent of the Dutch Tulip Mania fiasco in the 17th century, the creatives know that this, too, shall pass, and it is better to plan for the long term in this new artistic space. The fact that a physical artwork can generate additional value through minimal technological intervention opens up more earning opportunities for creatives. NFTs can also create a historical provenance record, an essential part of the art industry process.
The next obvious question is why they should join the Web 3.0 commercial environment. As with all developing technologies through the ages, if you snooze, you lose. There are many commercial paths to earning financial rewards in Web 3.0. Artists and creatives are historically the least likely economic category to earn a respectable living wage from their efforts. Thus, this is a vital financial step up in the world.
Artists and creatives who still work with physical art have as much right to enter the digital art space and are obliged to step up and help create this new cultural phenomenon. Now is the time to join in, to tell the digital world that you are here and ready to contribute with your skills and talents. We are on the cusp of a new artistic movement (yet to be named or defined adequately). Still, one hundred years from now, art historians, art students, and economists will look back in amazement at the cultural shift in the art world from 1980 to 2030, so let's make sure we give them something interesting to discuss.