[NFT Catastrophism]

An Assemblage of Internet Randomness

6/11/2021 - I recently had the pleasure of meeting my podcast Co-Host in flesh and blood. Yung is great online, but he’s a blast in person.

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[NFT Catastrophism]

There’s been a lot of talks recently in regards to the speculative NFT Bubble finally bursting. Type NFT into any search bar, and you’ll be flooded with top searches and headlines talking about how the NFT bubble burst or popped. It’s undeniable that the buzz around NFTs has died in the public realm. The news cycle tends to work that way, flooding the news cycle with the latest rush of novelty only to “swipe right” to the next story, to keep you entertained enough to give a shit.

There’s a big problem with announcing the #deathofNFTs, and it has less to do with their relevance as hyper-commodified art and more with what that means from a cultural production point of view. NFTs are not that new; the technology that would allow these Smart Contracts to be executed has been around since the mid-2010s. There's a clear overlap in terms of cultural production and technological innovation, but nothing as direct as one necessitates the other. To understand cultural production as simply following from Technological acceleration would be too reductive and dismissive of culture as merely an emergent phenomena of complex dynamics. Culture, which extends to Art, Memes, crafts, etc., is facilitated by technological innovation but is not its cause.

Cultural production stems from the production of free time. In the metaphysical sense, culture always stems from the conditions of possibility for energy to be expended. More concretely, the production of free time by technological and capital accumulation due to accelerative processes leads to rapid expenditure. The rate of this expenditure is directly linked to the energy being input into the system—for example, Potlaching. Potlatch involves giving away or destroying wealth or valuable items to demonstrate a leader's wealth and power, but this was done with the understanding to reaffirm social consensus, business, family ties, contracts, etc. In any system, there is always an energy that is nonrecuperable in a util sense. This is known as The Accused Share in Batailles’s notion of general Economy.

In terms of NFTs, we genuinely haven’t seen their true potential. This trading card-esque, “Pokemon” meme explosion is equivalent to a Cambrian explosion of novelty and waste. Still, we are yet to see the abominations that are to come from these technologies. NFTs apply memetic social contagion. With each compressing phase bursting and fizzling out only to allow the next wave to emerge, if NFTs are “dead,” they are dead only because a shockwave follows after n explosion.

Notes: This was borrowed and modified from a larger piece I’m working on titled, Bataille, NFTs and the Prohibition of Expenditure: A Polemical Introduction to the Configuration of Blockchains and Ecology

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