The Next Step of Art: NFTs
It was a concept that we heard in the days when our social life was limited due to the pandemic, the daily functioning of our lives was interrupted and the digital culture affected us all more than ever, Non-Fungible Tokens, which we know by the abbreviation NFT… Let me quote the short definition on Wikipedia, which I define as a digital common:
NFT (Non-fungible token) is a unit of data stored in a digital ledger called a blockchain, which confirms that a digital asset is unique and therefore not interchangeable. NFTs can be used to represent items such as photos, videos, audio, and other types of digital files. However, access to any copy of the original file is not limited to the recipient of the NFT. While copies of these digital items are available for anyone to acquire, NFTs are tracked on blockchains to provide the owner with proof of ownership separate from copyright.
This confusing definition actually has the distinction of being a good one for the NFT puzzle, precisely because of its confusion. First of all, there is a digital work in the middle, and despite the reproduction of this work, it has an “original”, “unique” state. There are copyrights that protect the rights of the person who produced this work and are also represented by the law; however, these copyrights do not guarantee that the work is completely “unique”. For this reason, the fact that the person producing the work has the original of the work in the blockchain together with NFT gives new opportunities to the buyer of the original work. The person who registers this is now able to sell his “original” work to someone else. Even as objects proliferate online, they are included in a digital signing process, where they are treated as if they were real assets. Therefore, the digital object, which actually has the same use value as the copy, continues to be tradeable and within the scope of the market, at least preserving its original exchange value. In this framework, the ownership relationship becomes defined and traceable.
Searching for the answer to the question of what kind of use value a work of art has puts us in a somewhat complicated and highly subjective field. A work may give me pleasure; it may make me happy; teaches me something; it may contain data that will be useful to me; It may make me think, inspire me, remind me of the past, excite me about the future, give me hope… It is possible to multiply and diversify these examples individually. If I go from a Spinozist place and I have to generalize; I can say that a work increases my conatus by equipping me with positive and negative stimuli and makes me more active with adequate emotions. In short, I can assume that this object is useful for the “me” that I accept as the subject in one way or another.
When the same work of art is sold, we see that it becomes a commodity, that is, it enters the market and has exchange value. If this object turned into a commodity is a tangible work, such as an oil painting, it will change hands within the framework of the gallery system for a price, taking into account the market price, according to the agreement between the gallery owner and the artist; As a painter-gallery-buyer-collector, he will find a place for himself in the universe of commodities at an affordable price in a triple relationship.
With this positioning, NFTs stand against the common trend of digital culture. The evolution of NFT; It is an indication of the evolution of products, designs and creations with a shared vision toward an opposite place. NFTs are also an indication of the use of blockchain technology to support property relations alongside cryptocurrencies, which are already speculative currencies.
At this point, it would be naive to expect that capitalism will leave this field to common structures, commoning technologies and sharing in this century, when the most valuable companies within itself have been technology companies, and in this century when it has focused on ensuring profit maximization from technology-based relative surplus-value, both through innovations and constructs such as industry 4.0. However, as in every field, to see this field as a line of struggle and to continue to support alternative digital reproduction and unlimited sharing principles, open source, information sharing platforms, copyleft; I think it is necessary to strive to increase such platforms. Against the trends that focus on the enclosure, the internet field needs to be defended from the perspective of the commons, just like in real areas… Against NFT’s understanding of commercializing virtual objects and artifacts; It seems essential to establish platforms that aim to exchange ideas, share, work together, and produce projects together, and to work for these platforms to continue their lives with appropriate financial and moral support mechanisms.