Where are we headed with Web3 and NFT communities?

14 Jun 2022

Bharat Krish, Laura Walsh and Kevin Abosch on screen, with Pete Townsend seated on stage at Future Human 2022. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

A panel of Web3 gurus told the Future Human audience how NFTs are changing the way we interact with games, art and the world at large. But is it all for the better?

Mark Zuckerberg made a splash with the concept of the metaverse when he rebranded Facebook last year. But a vision of a world that combines reality with the virtual has its roots in the realm of dystopian science fiction novels such as Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in 1992.

With new technologies emerging such as virtual and augmented reality, crypto and blockchain, the tech world is rapidly moving into Web3 – a completely reimagined way of human interaction with the internet.

At Future Human last month, a panel on the future of the web saw Web3 experts discuss the many trends emerging now.

They considered whether we’re heading towards the dystopian future of the novels, or if we have a chance to make Web3 work for greater good.

It’s all a game

Laura Walsh, CEO of immersive gaming company GamiFi, thinks that, given the way things are going now, we’re not too far off from how dystopian novels describe the plight of humans who take to virtual spaces to escape real-world problems.

“Unfortunately, we’re kind of actually following the trajectory of these books, which is not the best way to go about it – with war and with food shortages and supply chain shortages and virtual schools,” she told the Future Human audience. “I would hope that we were able to kind of pull it back a little bit and balance out a little bit more.”

She was responding to a question from panel moderator Pete Townsend, managing director of the Launchpool Web3 Techstars Accelerator, about how we can make Web3 work for the benefit of humanity.

Walsh, who is not a fan of virtual reality headsets because they make her nauseous, said that she prefers augmented reality. Using AR glasses or through phones, this technology allows humans to continue to be in touch with their natural environment.

“Hopefully we find a happy medium where we’re not trying to escape as much, and we are more in touch with our world. There’s still school, there’s still face-to-face interactions, but we seamlessly integrate the technology into our interactions so that we’re still interacting and not taking away from our actual human-to-human interactions.”

The art of NFT

For Irish digital artist Kevin Abosch, the rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, has brought a whole new crop of art collectors into his life.

“If we think about everything pre-NFT, the so-called ‘traditional’ art world, this new space brought a different demographic of collectors,” he told the audience.

This new demographic includes people who had never collected physical art before and, according to Abosch, were drawn to the easy accessibility of his work “without the baggage of having to go into a gallery and educate yourself on the spot”.

In March 2021, Abosch released 1,111 NFTs in a project that saw success with this new cohort of collectors, and soon developed into a community of like-minded NFT enthusiasts interested in his work.

“I suddenly had more collectors of my work than ever, and a community of sorts did emerge. But I didn’t do anything I think to really encourage that,” said Abosch, who does not have his own community on a platform such as Discord and primarily communicates through Twitter.

“It’s not that I wouldn’t want to communicate in both directions with my collector base, and sometimes that does happen, but I just don’t have the time with a couple of kids and everything going on in life. Some of my work is politically charged and I’ve had some nastiness with the public and death threats, etc, so it’s just something that I choose not to engage with.”

Web3 communities

The creation of communities around NFTs was also witnessed by Time Digital president Bharat Krish, who leads a Web3 project called TimePieces to highlight NFT artworks by more than 40 artists from around the world.

“Where we started was pretty naive, from a very Web2-centric mindset where we will put something out there with a brand name and somebody’s going to consume it – they’re going to come and get it just because of the brand name. We were so wrong,” he said.

“We quickly realised that building this sort of coalescing around the community and shared interest was an important part.”

Soon, people buying the NFTs began wanting to contribute to the community. He gave the example of someone from Malaysia who built the scaffolding for the Discord that Krish had started, and someone else who offered to help build the security around it, while a third stepped in to curate artists.

“I started seeing an interesting pattern emerge where now we’re in direct communication with people who actually bought the NFT, or people who actually created the art. Otherwise it wasn’t possible.”

Krish ended the panel with some words of advice to others in the community around the need for greater diversity in the Web3 space, such as having more women and people of colour involved.

“I think we have to be intentional when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The same instincts that we had in Web2 exist in Web3 to remediate these. Be intentional in bringing on the people with diversity and inclusion,” he said.

“We’ve taken that approach within Time. We’ve been very intentional about it because when we look around, we want to be in the beacon of light here, at least as an example. And that’s what motivates me.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic