The actual context and state of content [on the internet] is going to be so different to anything we can envisage at the moment, where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in sympatico its going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.
— David Bowie, BBC Newsnight 1999
Bowie was remarkably prescient on the impact the internet would have, not only within the creative industries but also on society at large. While the early days of the internet painted a future of borderless, peer-to-peer networks of unlimited creative possibility, we still have gatekeepers and intermediaries demanding their share of cultural equity.
Can the new era of Web3 technologies, such as blockchain and crypto assets, revitalize culture-making and blur the lines between creators and patrons in such a way that perhaps the Starman himself would approve?
The nature of creative scenes
Ambient music pioneer (and Bowie collaborator) Brian Eno described the spontaneous eruption of creative scenes and subcultures as a display of scenius: The intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene […] the communal form of the concept of the genius.
While stars or other influential figures may be the vanguard for a new scene or subculture, bottom-up community engagement is paramount for any modern cultural movement to gain traction — whether it be surrealism, punk rock, hip-hop, cyberpunk or crypto.
Wired founder and futurist Kevin Kelly breaks down scenius into four core factors:
Mutual appreciation — Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.
Rapid exchange of tools and techniques — As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility.
Network effects of success — When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success.
Local tolerance for the novelties — The local outside does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.
Scenius can occur anywhere minds meet: a town, a co ...