Indigenous design as possible inspiration
- Deep listening
Dedicating sufficient time for consultation with cultural groups is key to ensuring appropriate community engagement and co-ownership of the services and products developed. For art on the blockchain, this may require the participation of acknowledged cultural custodians throughout the process of conception, promotion, and dissemination of cultural artifacts.
Any solution and service promoting art on the blockchain, including strategies for trade and exhibition of artworks, must necessarily be led by the artists themselves and other representatives of their cultural groups. This ensures ownership and self-determination about both the artwork and the processes promoting it, including what cultural aspects should or should not be included, and how. So far, It has been argued that technologies like the blockchain could provide valuable strategies to ensure self-determination, yet a lack of consultation and the current shape of the crypto ecosystem may also pose significant barriers to it.²
Cultural groups are diverse, and what works for one may simply not work for others. The “one-size-fits-all” approach offered by the Web3 discourse blatantly overlooks that reality. On the contrary, enough time and money needs to be spent with each group to ensure that their voices are heard, that they can lead with their own approaches in order that specific cultural nuances are understood, respected, and promoted.
- Shared benefits
Artists from diverse cultural backgrounds should be guaranteed fair participation in the outcomes of their creations, especially if these involve financial gains. In doing so, the technological ecosystem would help to correct past injustices, while offering paths forward that are more equitable and socially just. This is potentially one of the main incentives offered by NFTs to cultural groups previously excluded by colonial institutions. Yet, once again, the critical questions discussed above must be addressed in any engagement with crypto to determine how fair the engagement actually is. To this end, it may be relevant to consider whether bypassing traditional cultural institutions, including museums and online art platforms, only to be locked in by crypto marketplaces does not simply move the colonial goalposts further down the chain.
- Respecting cultural knowledges
Digital artifacts do not exist in isolation, but rather reflect the cultural context in which they originate, and its knowledge systems. It is important to ensure that mechanisms to inform the tokenization of artifacts carried out through NFTs, or similar solutions, do not risk ignoring the intangible elements associated with the artifact, which may be integral to its existence and understanding.