State of SEEN — Deep Dive #5
Our deep dive series aims to provide in-depth analysis on important trends happening in the NFT space.
This week’s article was written by doublewordscore.
Communities and Subculture: Empowering Artists of All Types to Thrive Against Longer Odds
Pop culture was far simpler thirty years ago. If you were a sentient, culture consuming human being, you likely participated in fierce debates about Pearl Jam vs Nirvana, set your alarm for 8PM on Thursdays for the next episode Friends, and fervently supported whichever athletics team which happened to be located closest to you. Back then, the sphere from which people were able to easily consume culture was relatively limited, largely defined by the influences of their social circle and the broader narratives driven by media conglomerates. Discovering new artists, musicians, or films took effort, resulting in a certain level of homogeneity of pop culture.
For example, if you lived in a traditional small town in Asia, you might literally be the only person there to have an interest in, let’s say, French surrealist film and finding people with that shared interest would be rather challenging. But the Internet changed everything; it provided new accessibility to art, film, & music. Pop culture was fragmented to such a degree that one could argue that despite their definitions, subculture became dominant over pop culture itself.
Though the Internet was still in its infancy, like-minded individuals formed small communities that highlighted the powerful reach of communication. Chat protocols such as IRC, message boards, and newsgroups popped up about even the most niche topics, where people from around the world could communicate about mostly anything at any time of the day. Despite the clunky and awkward user interfaces, these communities consequently provided a foundation for the Internet, as a protocol, to truly thrive and prosper as the technology matured.
There are parallels to those beginnings to the growth of NFTs and digital art today. It’s almost imperative for any artist to have active social media platforms like Twitter & Instagram, but the strongest artists have succeeded by cultivating a community through discussion platforms.
Discord and Telegram, in particular, are hubs where supporters can congregate to share ideas, add their own commentary, and develop relationships with the artist and fellow enthusiasts.
The Cryptopunks Discord server will, for example, have over 1500 community members online at any given time where loyal enthusiasts will excitedly discuss different combinations of traits, market trends, adjacent projects, and spinoff collections of the original.
The SEEN HAUS Telegram has built a community of over 1300, where artists will often stop by to discuss their works with their fans. 1Penemy & Madgrrl are frequent contributors that not only will answer questions about their own work, but provide commentary and critique on others. Creating this kind of bond with supporters forges their relationship and encourages continued interaction.
Certain artists and projects have allowed their loyal communities to add increased functionality to their art, as well as creating governance organizations to enhance the original collections. The Hashmasks has offered grants to community members to create analytics platforms such as Mask Radar to offer more sophisticated ways to filter through the collection and to compile pricing data.
The community for Art Blocks, a generative art platform, recently launched SquiggleDAO, a group designed to govern a community-backed treasury for related side projects. The project was bootstrapped by airdropping an allocation of tokens to holders of the ChromieSquiggle collection; next, they allowed community members to donate NFTs into the treasury for an exchange of additional tokens, with different redemption rates depending on the scarcity of the NFT. This was one of the first instances for a third-party NFT organization created to support the original project.
These strong communities and subcommunities have become a staple in the NFT scene and encouraged artists of varying styles to grow. Because there isn’t an established aesthetic in the NFT space, artistic styles from entirely opposite poles of the spectrum have been able to find staunch followings of support. Collectors value pixel art such as Cryptopunks as much as they do the 3D modeling, animation, and rendering genre such as mbsjq, and arc4g.
No one would mistake pop art palettes of Hackatao or Fewocious whose art focuses on saturated colors and vivid imagination for the impressionist works of Pascal Boyart or Alex Schaefer. Beeple often uses his art for political satire and a critique of consumerism, while Nyan the Cat and Pepe the Frog are equally popular characters who thrive on lighthearted memetic humor.
This diversity among styles and ideologies is a byproduct of the fragmentation of culture. Concentrated pockets of dedicated support provides artists with the stability to focus on creating what they do best, art. The communities play a vital role in the ecosystem for NFTs, and seeing almost cult-like support is a strong indicator that NFTs will be a permanent addition to how people think about culture.