Hidden behind opaque terms and acronyms, this new technology could well transform the way many fields operate, including the creative and cultural industries.
But what is it all about ? What does it mean in practical terms for professional practices ? Will blockchain allow a democratization of arts and culture, is it a creator of links or is it a further step towards the total individualization of our modern society ?
Here are some elements of answer following the intervention of Kenza Zouari, Mohamed Mnif and Shiran Ben Abderrazak.
What is blockchain ?
The blockchain is a decentralized database technology, recording and transmitting information transparently, securely and operating without any control body.
- Traceability : Each step of the transmission chain is transparent because it is accessible to everyone.
- Security : The database being decentralized, its hacking is largely complex since it implies corrupting at least 50% of the computers on which the information is stored.
The system thus guarantees the reliability of the information. Creative industries whose economic models have been disrupted by new consumption patterns could find in the blockchain a solution to many problems.
What are NFTs ?
Non Fungible Token, recently highlighted by an auction at the famous auction house Christie's, is a unique and indivisible digital object. When applied to a work, it acts as a certificate of authenticity that marks its origin and gives it the ability to be traded on a blockchain. NFTs are thus an element of resolution to the thorny problem of intellectual property.
The blockchain allows a new form of contract, the smart contract. What is it about ?
A traditional contract requires the use of a third party to verify the execution of the terms. The innovation of the smart contract lies in its autonomy. Based on the blockchain, it is automatically executed as soon as the programmed conditions have been met. It ensures that the contract is executed according to its precise terms and for an unlimited period.
What does this mean for artists and creators ?
NFTs and smart contracts simplify and even make possible specific types of remuneration in the cultural and creative sector, such as the payment of royalties or micro-monetization. These innovations offer a great independence to artists who can control their creations until the end by choosing the type of sale, its terms, the price and the platform.
If the artist can manage his creation alone until the sale, WHAT about the professional intermediaries of the sector ?
It is true that the principle of NFTs is to eliminate these intermediaries in order to free up the process for the creators. However, it is up to the intermediaries to reposition themselves in this new operation. The conversion and management of NFTs is a real job in itself and artists are not necessarily willing or able to manage all these aspects. Some platforms have already been created, such as Nifty Gateway.
And precisely, how to convert a work into NFT ?
Photo, scan, file conversion : it doesn't matter how, the only criterion is to make the work exist in digital format and make it available on a platform.
There is still an obstacle to the application of these technologies in Tunisia: they work with cryptomoney...
In Tunisia, it is certainly difficult but not impossible to obtain cryptomoney. The easiest way is to go through the donation by being offered cryptomoney.
Once the work is made "unique" and sold in NFT, what room is left for dissemination to the general public ?
Selling a work in NFT does not mean that it can only exist in one copy. First, the artist can choose the number of NFT copies of his creation. Then, depending on the type of work and the choice of the author and producer, unlimited non-NFT versions can be copied.
But in the digital world, what experience of the work remains ?
The experience of digital works must be considered in parallel with the evolution of digital media more broadly. To imagine attending a concert under a virtual reality helmet is no longer science-fiction. Indeed, the digital nature of the work necessarily implies a different experience. But different does not mean less valuable or interesting. Moreover, a multitude of experiences are possible for the same work: one can for example choose to preserve it virtually or to materialize it.
What about the environmental impact ?
We have already heard that digital technology pollutes, so NFTs are pollutants. There are initiatives and alternatives that seek a data management with less impact. However, it is also important to put this impact in context, a context where almost everything has an environmental impact, including the art market and physical cultural industries.
After less than two hours of exchange, there are perhaps more questions than answers to this recent phenomenon. In an operation that is meant to be decentralized, should a horizontal mode of governance be established ? How can we advocate a democratization of access to these contents in the face of the digital divide ?
The possibilities offered by the blockchain are as infinite as its modalities are to be defined.