Note — Jun 06, 2021

The Ghostchain. (Or Taking Things for What They Are)

Last week I mentioned promising concepts vs underwhelmingly execution in regards to Blockchain, NFTs, and DAOs. In various topics I’m interested in there are often (at least) three types of reactions I notice: people madly for who don’t criticize, people madly critical who don’t acknowledge pros, people pining for a public good version, or at least one not operating in a “capitalism turned to eleven” kind of framing, who kind of throw their hands up at the debate.

Geraldine Juárez seems to be mostly in the second camp with a conclusion opening on the third. I’m mentioning this because it’s a great read, with great digs at the art scene and NFTs, but I can’t help feeling that there are bits in there that might be overly on the critical side. Not sure.

I also talk about these three types because I’m coming from the third one with regards the metaverse, and Juárez ruined my vibe by introducing me to the NFTbro metaverse version. I was sad, if unsurprised, to discover this.

Web3 is another topic mentioned, which is here included in the crap fest she describes, but I keep seeing opinions of great promise for it. I’ll have to read-up, like the couple of long pieces by thejaymo that I’ve got piled up.

But enough digressions; excellent piece with lots of great points, a useful perspective on digital art, and Juárez hits her goal of articulating “with more precision the interdependence between financialisation and assetization, and to spot the broader social and political effects that turning things into digital assets have in the societies we exist in as artists.”

In the internet of assets – the casino layer of the web – who cares about workers? One vending machine per child. Do not worry, there is no need for intermediaries. The only thing needed is a public ledger devouring energy to decentralise the verification of all economic transactions concentrated within the chain of preference. […]

This frictionless machine only dispenses art as a ghost, a form that–like all exchange value–is magical and mysterious but should not be confused with aura, simply because there is no such thing as an authentic digital copy. It is not the ghost in the vending machine either. It is the ghost of property, a fictitious experience of ownership glancing back at us through our screens. Capitalised aura, perhaps. […]

But if assets are just made up narratives about the future, perhaps we can create other stories where the value of the future is brought into the present with the intention of decapitalising these chains and make it socially and politically expensive to keep adding blocks in them, until blockchain infrastructures eventually turn into abandoned ghostchains.