In 2018, Village Global published a simple framework that split crypto into two factions: Money Crypto and Tech Crypto
Money Crypto: Maintains that the point of cryptocurrency is to redefine how money works by (re)introducing ‘sound money’. Sound money is money that: has either a fixed supply or a predictable inflation rate; doesn’t appreciate quickly, and; can’t be controlled by governments via inflation or confiscation.
Money crypto has strong libertarian roots where crypto is a store-of-value first, and a technology second. It takes a long-term view with careful and calculated changes. It attracts long-term investors who are willing to hodl.
Tech Crypto: Maintains that the point of cryptocurrency is to redefine how the internet works by introducing Web 3.0. Tech Crypto views tokens as the most salient innovation in human-coordination mechanisms since joint stock corporations centuries ago, and thereby, a potential disruptor of centralized internet companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft.
Tech crypto has Silicon Valley roots, it has disruption as its primary function, and it declares tokens are the incentive mechanism that will defeat the network effects of today’s tech giants. It seeks short-term collectors who are willing to join new communities.
This two narrative view is a helpful way to think about the industry. Since so many conversations about what the big opportunity in crypto is often begin from different assumptions and starting points, recognizing there are multiple narratives can help prevent people from talking passed each other.
Yet, a lot has changed since 2018.
We’ve been through an entire pandemic and back.
Crypto has boomed and busted.
And two crypto factions have now become three.
Enter, culture crypto…
If money crypto was about a better store of value…
And tech crypto was about leveraging token incentives to build Web3…
Then culture crypto is about bringing social status and signals on-chain.
Let’s get a little deeper.
Formally defined, culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior, institutions, and norms found in our societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, customs, and habits of those that comprise these groups.
Informally, the meaning of ‘culture’ is hard to put a finger on.
Culture is evergreen and always changing.
It ebbs and flows.
It divides into cliques and consolidates into communities.
Being a part of a culture means fitting in.
Pushing the boundaries of a culture means standing out.
Yet, culture cannot be owned, only signalled.
As it evolves, culture produces artifacts as its by-products.
Ownership of these artifacts is a way to signal how you ‘fit in’ or ‘stand out’.
And that is the key: culture crypto is about status and the signals we use to tell a story about who we are.
A New Way to Tell a Story About Yourself
Most of us spend a lot of time in the real world. A typical week for me means spending time in many different environments (home, work, socializing, commuting, etc.) with many different social interactions (family, colleagues, friends, strangers, etc.). The outward facing story of “me” the world sees consists of the clothes I wear, the mannerisms I portray, the actions I take, the people I associate with, and the general way I carry myself.
Most of us also spend a lot of time in the digital world, and evidence would suggest, the scale is starting to tip more and more in this direction. Online, we’re spending time in a variety of environments (personal devices, work environments, social media, exploring the public web) and having many different social interactions (family, colleagues, friends, strangers, etc.). Similarly, for my digital persona, the outward facing story of “me” the world sees consists of the things available to me to send visible signals about myself: my profile picture, my messaging style, the groups I belong to, and the blue checkmark beside my Twitter handle (hah, I wish! Maybe once it is $8/month).
Culture crypto is about telling the digital world who you are, finding new ways to bring social signals online and on-chain.
Crypto has some fascinating characteristics as a digital good: transparency, anyone can see; immutability, no one can question. That makes it perfect as an artifact for status signaling.
Culture crypto started, not with NFTs, but well before with the communities formed around fungible tokens. Ownership of those tokens, whether they represented big protocols or small, were a signal that you supported a specific project. Of course, there were BTC Maximalists and ETH’s true believers, which were money crypto and tech crypto, respectively. But smaller projects like DOGE (memes) or Monero (privacy) also had signalling value. These projects formed communities that people could attach themselves to, often through token ownership—and owning those tokens said something about who you were.
However, with fungible tokens as artifacts, culture crypto was narrowly bound to the crypto community and its various projects. In addition, although fungibility allowed for people to signal how they “fit in”, it was limited in how it could help people “stand out”. That was, until the birth of the non-fungible token (NFT).
NFTs—unique onchain assets—while born in 2014, gained widespread use and popularity in 2020. Leaving out the long history of how and why they have emerged, suffice to say that they created a new way to play status games online. Non-fungibility means you are able to possess unique assets, which allow for more “standing out”. NFTs have also been used in a variety of ways to signal belonging to a community, whether its having association with the 9,999 other CryptoPunk holders or various forms of tokengating that are starting to emerge. Non-fungibility allows for much better signalling than fungibility ever did, which is why culture crypto is just getting started.
Culture is why NFTs will be the Next Big Gateway into Crypto
There is some evidence culture crypto is starting to ramp up.
Nike, for example, just dropped details about their dotSwoosh project.
Nike is making a play to legitimize virtual apparel as part of its long-term strategy…. DotSwoosh seems aimed at taking sneaker drops into the future century through a storefront anyone can easily access… The platform will evolve to sell virtual Nike shoes and other apparel, sometimes created alongside fans and users in design contests and sometimes created by Nike’s own designers and partners. In an enticing twist, Nike will use blockchain to share revenue on community sourced designs as they are sold and resold.
Ticketmaster has also been quietly jumping into culture crypto, with over 5 million NFTs minted in its six month pilot project:
Ticketmaster today announced an entirely new way for event organizers to enhance their fans’ experiences through digital collectible NFTs. Event organizers who sell live events tickets on Ticketmaster now have the ability to issue NFTs before, during and after live events. To date, the offering is already seeing significant traction, with Ticketmaster minting more than 5 million NFTs for event organizers on the Flow blockchain.
Of course, OG culture crypto also continues to move forward. Yuga Labs continues to consolidate NFT-based communities, its latest acquisition being WENEW,
Yuga Labs, web3 leader and home of the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), today confirmed the acquisition of WENEW… WENEW is a NFT powerhouse known for web3-centric partnerships with celebrated brands such as Louis Vuitton, Playboy, Wimbledon, Gucci, Puma, and others; in addition to these high-profile collaborations, WENEW is home to the narrative-driven NFT collection, 10KTF.
If it is not clear from the recognizability of the names above, these are big brands with big reach. But wait… there’s more! Many of the world’s largest luxury brands are looking at NFTs. Starbucks is looking at NFTs for its rewards platform. Disney has NFTs for some of the most beloved IP in existence. Tiffany & Co recently launched a line of pendants through an NFT mint. Twitter, Reddit, Instagram and other social platforms are all allowing NFTs to be used as profile pictures.
It will not be surprising if soon, the first experience for many people new to crypto will be through an NFT, rather than Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Which Narrative Wins the Day?
Village Global posed this question in their original article, concluding that: In reality, it’s too early to tell whether either or both of them are right — nor are they mutually exclusive. It’s possible that both are right about the eventual outcome but merely disagree about the order of operations.
That holds true with the introduction of culture crypto.
It is likely that each narrative continues to persist and evolve. New narratives may emerge. Some parts of the narratives may blend together.
Regardless, there is a case to be made that culture crypto should have its own place in the in the Mount Rushmore of crypto narratives.
To finish off, one observation: In the midst of all the mayhem, this article had no mention of either SBF or FTX. Not only is that refreshing, but it is also clear that there is separation between culture crypto and the other narratives. And with money crypto’s reputation temporarily damaged, that should be reason to continue to believe that culture crypto will continue its ascension.
One response to “Money Crypto, Tech Crypto, Culture Crypto”
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