Empty Promises—The Misuse of “Community” and The Importance of Novel Governance Structures
We work in art museums IRL. We work in crypto, commissioning artists to create art on the blockchain and inventing on-chain protocols that authenticate and protect their creations. Through these contexts, we have witnessed the misapplication and exploitation of the term “community” in both spheres and believe that innovative structures are essential for addressing this issue.
In the art world, the concept of “community” is frequently used as a smokescreen for presumed inclusiveness and progressive ideals. Administrators, board members, curators, and educators in art museums lean on this term to imply that their content is widely accessible and relevant to the trials and tribulations of a diverse audience. Museums host dance parties, listening circles, toddler tours, and date nights to attract constituencies beyond the rarified, fine-art lover. They virtue signal, claiming to “stand for things” on Instagram, polishing their DEAI policies and programming until they meet their quotas. All this could indicate critical, ground-floor change for the good, except that, in the United States at least, art museums often function as privately-funded vanity projects for wealthy elites, who, behind the scenes, resist the pursuit of real change and genuine inclusivity. “Community” merely denotes those outside the rings of power, linked together by their exclusion.
In crypto, “communities” form rapidly around various art projects and products, driven, to be sure, by the potential for profit, but also—and perhaps more importantly—by a yearning to belong, by a desire to participate and a drive to contribute to something collective and meaningful. Collectors gather from all corners of the world and from all sorts of cultural backgrounds around the acquisition of rare digital assets, reinforcing their perceived worth, and satisfying the collective desire for creating value through engagement with something meaningful. While a strong sense of camaraderie often develops among the pseudonymous members, enticing promises of decentralized governance often devolve into token shilling and counterproductive competition for control over (often multi-million dollar) community treasuries.
Too often in these art worlds, community has become a commodity. Communities are exploited for their virtues, then pumped, dumped, and ghosted. Since this trend is so pervasive, the source seems to lie less with people or places than it does with incentives. Community fatigue is a symptom of something structural.
In response, we are developing a novel approach to decentralized decision-making to foster the emergence of genuine communities and provide the tools for them to preserve and grow the value they generate. We call it an eDAO. Drawing on inspiration from the spirit of competitive team sports, this experimental model, which will be open to anyone on the internet to participate in, seeks to empower individuals and groups by providing measurable and well-defined objectives that can be achieved or surpassed through performance in competitive on-chain games. The intent is for this competitive element to not only spark excitement and camaraderie among participants but also to strengthen the bonds within the communities that emerge as contenders in the eDAO game. The idea is to link success in these on-chain competitions to progress towards the community’s goals; to strengthen a shared sense of purpose while leading to sustainable value creation.
For instance, EET (https://eet.et) is an AI-augmented fortune-telling blockchain oracle created by Cai Guo-Qiang in collaboration with Kanon. The eDAO we are developing for this project will grant control over the project and the revenue it generates to the “winner” of an on-chain game, which is set up as a continuous competition where participants compete to generate revenue for EET using an on-chain scorekeeping mechanism. The current winner of this game maintains their control over EET until another participant successfully challenges them, creating a dynamic environment where control of the project always resides with individuals and groups who have demonstrated the greatest ability in achieving the community’s objectives.
In an environment where the term “community” is being misused and misrepresented in the realms of both art and the crypto-enabled internet, we believe the eDAO has the potential to strike a better balance between equal access to community participation and effectiveness in achieving clear and measurable goals, leading to sustainable economic success which is essential for the long-term viability of any project. While novel and experimental, our hope is that the eDAO will make a valuable contribution to art, the open infrastructure of the internet, and to genuine communities.