The Tezos Dev Series – Drew Taylor: Battle For The Soul Of NFTs

by | Jul 8, 2021 | Adoption, Latest

In this 2nd edition of the brand new ‘Tezos Dev Series’, Drew Taylor from Chain Of Insight commentates on the state of NFTs, before looking into what the future could hold for this exciting new paradigm shift .

We thank Drew for this incredibly thoughtful piece and we look forward to catching up with him soon to find out what else he is working on.

Hall Of Drama

Introduction

Tezos sure has come a long way these past months and the last couple weeks have been particularly action packed for Tezos and NFTs.

In NFTLand, we’ve seen CryptoPunks launch DMCA takedown campaigns, a sassy Hic et Nunc swap exploit, the NFT influencer soap opera of Beanie and digitalartchick, Binance locking in 1% artist royalties for secondary sales, an announcement that Gucci will soon be making NFTs, and a rising paranoia among NFT creators that Twitter ML algorithms are out to get them.

Having worked as a blockchain developer since 2016 and, more specifically, as an NFT developer since 2017, I’ve often marveled at NFTLand’s tandem evolution alongside creator economies and monetized content.

With my background as an artist and early NFT developer, I feel inspired to comment on the current state of NFTs in Tezos. This article is for anyone interested in NFTs, whether as a creator, developer, collector, or someone looking for information about NFTs as a subculture and movement.

Many growing pains NFTs are having right now could be related to misunderstandings between different communities with competing interests. With this in mind, let’s open up discussion about the soul of NFTs!

State of the NFTs

But before we scrutinize our subculture, let’s decide what the heck we’re talking about.

NFTease?

Oh, have you heard this one before? Surely every NFT article does an explainer on the term “NFT”. Since, NFTs are comprised of some combination of the following

  1. Source code deployed to a blockchain (example)
  2. Metadata (example)
  3. Fungibility
  4. Tokenomics

It might be useful afterward to consider what NFTs are not.

Fungibility is the “uniqueness” of an NFT. If it was released as a single edition, one of many, or if each minted token doesn’t have unique features at all and it’s a fungible token.

Tokenomics refers to how NFTs are monetized and distributed to users. It’s related to fungibility since both are concepts which govern supply. 

Yes, it all seems so simple listed in bullet points, but our situation is muddier because fungibility’s meaning for NFTs has evolved over time. While NFT is an acronym of “non-fungible token”, its usage has evolved now to include semi-fungible tokens. These are tokens which have rare, rather than unique, features.

It may seem silly but this is my list of things NFTs are not

  1. Marketing
  2. Art works
  3. JPEGs (or videos, 3D models, etc.)
  4. People, clubs 

Back in 1999, David Bowie made an eerie prophecy about the Internet.

Bowie: I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.

Interviewer: It’s simply a different delivery system there. You’re talking about something more profound.

Bowie: Oh yeah, I’m talking about the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything we can really envisage at the moment. Where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in sympatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.

Of course, marketing and people are related concepts in NFT spaces. Some projects have built-in audiences, fans that are already dialed into that artist’s journey.

Maybe they’ve been consuming the artist’s content for years and are eager consumers. But in the battle for the soul of NFTs, even more mind-boggling than the relationship between NFTs to cults of personality and clubs, is their relationship to artworks and art mediums.

While artists and collectors may be more excited by content or style. Developers tend to focus on the issues that relate to them, like functionality, interoperability and security.

There’s not always a great dialogue there between the different actors. Oh yeah, and there’s exorbitant amounts of money involved which, as you know, attracts all sorts of users that have completely other competing interests and different levels of access to capital.

Businesses, artists, investors, collectors, content creators and developers alike all seem interested in tokenomics and the financial autonomy facilitated by NFTs, but they won’t necessarily use the same criteria or approach when they’re assessing value within that system.

Here is my cheeky list of NFT narratives people tell when explaining what an NFT is 

  1. Utility
  2. Content
  3. Exclusivity
  4. Community 

Exclusivity emphasizes the non-fungible or rare part of an NFT. An example of this would be BAYC, a token which markets itself as a members only club.

Utility focuses on the functionality of on-chain code, it powers the narratives of Content and Exclusivity. A utility narrative will emphasize what a token does or tell you how it solves a problem. 

Content stories focus on rare or unique features like digital art, that make NFTs special. This is why it’s often confused or intertwined with Exclusivity. This narrative is different from tokenizing physical artworks—which is actually a Utility narrative.

A Community narrative is a beautiful thing that can occur when decentralization unites the NFT space around a common purpose. It’s the same thing as, but a different perspective on Exclusivity. That’s because part of its strength comes from having more, rather than less, users in its ecosystem.

Future of NFTLand

“After a hundred years people will begin to understand [NFTs] rightly.” – Immanuel Kant as an NFT meme

We covered a lot of ground!

What if events like the Hic et Nunc swap vulnerability are a bridge building opportunity.  A moment to pause and reflect on the future we’re creating together as artists, collectors, investors and developers.

All of whom are active parts of the ecosystem and its narratives. Instead of burning bridges, or siphoning the soul of NFTs into separate tribes, we can choose a future in which we support rather than compete with each other for hegemony over the soul of NFT.

I also have an intuition how we can build that amazing future, but I’ll need your help!

 Communities are fascinating. To create a strong and pluralistic future we’re going to need the wisdom, creativity and passion of everyone that cares about NFTs.

No matter what bizarre or idiosyncratic vision of NFT we can create, we’ll not determine if it’s valuable for humans if we don’t make space for everyone.

The rise of HEN culture has been an epic moment for NFTs. This is because since the dawn of NFTs the narrative has been overwhelmingly controlled by exclusivity.

Something I did recently is I re-read a viral post from an NFT influencer from last year and it completely-blew-my-mind. Check that out here, it’s incredible how much the soul of NFT has evolved in just over a year’s time.

And that’s why I am excited about NFTs in 2021!

Developer Profile

My name is Drew Taylor. I’m Co-Founder of Chain of Insight (COI), the company that made Project Uanon. I love Tezos and its functional programming approach as well as the atmosphere of its NFT community.

I believe a future governed by smart contracts can be a more fair and equitable place, and that the combination of NFT technology and the community of content creators we have are actively building a future where “the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different to anything we can really envisage at the moment.

Where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in sympatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about”. I like to program in the Pascal variant of LIGO and create DApps using Taquito and Beacon. Most of COI’s software code is open source and available on GitHub

People say NFTs are changing the world but has anyone really demystified that? COI created Uanon to explore boundaries between learning, knowing and understanding using our history, art, social psychology and cryptography as context.

We try to create a liminal space with NFTs, where exclusivity and community combine together to form value. It’s achieved by offering Uanon’s NFTs free (minus gas), while keeping it intellectually rigorous to discover just how they can be minted.

Out of 500 sign-ups to Uanon, 92 players have so far successfully minted an NFT by solving difficult challenges and puzzles. 

Would love to leak some art from our upcoming NFTs but lips closed for now, you’ll have to wait and see!

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