It’s 2022. It might not feel like it, with the way the world has been upended these past two years, but we are already this far into the calendar. We’ve had the year of confinement, the year of sourdough and word games, and now the year of the tiger is pretty quickly becoming the year of the NFT.
What is an NFT?
NFT stands for non-fungible token. It’s a digital asset that you can’t physically hold, and is unique (hence the non-fungible part). These tokens can take the form of visual art, sounds, videos, virtual properties—it’s a growing list. But to be an NFT, it just needs to exist on the blockchain, where it is verified and where its ownership and transaction records are stored forever. A quick example: Artist X created a digital image of his face. It’s then listed for sale via the marketplace OpenSea, where traders and collectors can bid on it. The winning bidder secures the proof of ownership, verified and stored in the blockchain, and they are the legal holder of the digital portrait. Lots of others could screenshot the image itself, or copy it—but the owner is still the same. It’s like buying a nice car: anyone can take a photo of the car, but only the owner can claim it as their own. The history of ownership is all kept in a handy ledger. Make sense?
What are NFTs used for?
NFTs are being used for a whole lot of things—beyond just art and assets, although that is their most visible application as of right now. They’re used to ensure that creators can be fairly compensated throughout the life of their work, no matter who holds or owns it. They’re being used to create indestructible proof of attendance (like a ticket that can’t be lost), and to verify transactions that do and don’t involve money. Because they are verified via the blockchain, each token or transaction is a permanent record that can’t be changed, only added to.
How can I buy NFTs?
Tokens are “minted” (published) and listed for sale on marketplaces. The largest marketplace in the NFT world right now is OpenSea, which lists minted tokens for sale and resale. Transactions are handled in Ethereum (ETH), a cryptocurrency. In order to buy an NFT, you need to have a crypto wallet. Registering with one of these wallet services grants you access to engage with blockchain-enabled platforms. They’re easy enough to register for, and the most popular wallet right now is MetaMask. Still following? Once you have a wallet, you have a secure location for your digital assets, either in the form of cryptocurrencies or tokens like NFTs. Your wallet functions a bit like a safe and a bank account all in one. Load up your wallet with ETH, and use that to purchase an NFT. The NFT will then be stored in your wallet until you decide to sell it again (or give it to someone else).
Why is Wonderfruit talking about NFTs?
NFTs are one facet of an emerging digital revolution. Collectively, the infrastructure (and the many innovations built on top of it) is referred to as Web3, or Web 3.0. Web 1.0 was the beginning of the internet, when anyone could create a webpage that hosted information. Web 2.0 refers to the user-generated internet. Think comments on blogs, or ecommerce, or social media. Web 2.0 is all about logins and interactions. Web3 is the next step: a decentralized network that can be owned, controlled, and used by everyone, with baked-in transparency and no single owner or operator.
In this new world of Web3, we’ve seen opportunities to expand some of the thoughts and actions that make Wonderfruit what it is, into a decentralized, open system. A way for people to connect in virtual spaces as well as in person, beyond simple interaction. A network of creators and contributors that own and operate as a collective body, not as audience members. A technology that is open to active participation, not just spectating. Within this new world, there is potential.
While we prepare to reconnect, and gather in person again in The Fields this December, we are exploring this new world in our own Wonderfruit-y ways. We are testing, experimenting, and asking questions. To see how NFTs could be used for personal transformation and cultural conversation, how this new technology could change the way we think about experiences, and what role NFTs play in building communities. The answers lie somewhere at the intersection of art and technology, culture and community. Wonderfruit, and the team behind it, are going to be pushing further into these discoveries in a project to be launched soon: Hypothesis.