Thinking loudly about networked beings. Commonist. Projektionsfläche. License: CC-BY
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In the Mirror

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New Secret Knots comic: “In the Mirror”. Feel free to leave a comment around here, or in our Discord server. As usual, sharing the comic is always appreciated: that’s how people find out about The Secret Knots. Over the next[…]↓ Read the rest of this entry...
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tante
86 days ago
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"In The Mirror"
Berlin/Germany
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Former asset manager for Celsius files lawsuit alleging the company was a Ponzi scheme

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Celsius logo, a purple circle with a white "C˚" on it, followed by purple to pink gradient text reading "Celsius"

Jason Stone, founder of the KeyFi company who formerly managed assets for Celsius, filed a complaint against Celsius Network in a New York court, alleging the company was operating as a Ponzi scheme and owes them "a significant sum of money". Stone alleged that, despite claiming that Celsius's trading teams would properly hedge against any impermanent loss or loss due to token fluctuation incurred by KeyFi, they were doing nothing of the sort. Upon learning this in March 2021, they terminated their relationship with Celsius. However, Stone alleges that Celsius owes KeyFi "a significant sum of money", which Celsius has not acknowledged. Instead, Stone claims, Celsius has accused them of theft.

The legal complaint reads, "Prior to Plaintiff coming on board, Defendants had no unified, organized, or overarching investment strategy other than lending out the consumer deposits they received. Instead, they were desperately seeking a potential investment that could earn them more than they owed to their depositors. Otherwise, they would have to use additional deposits to pay the interest owed on prior deposits, a classic 'Ponzi scheme.' The recent revelation that Celsius does not have the assets on hand to meet its withdrawal obligations shows that Defendants were, in fact, operating a Ponzi-scheme."

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tante
89 days ago
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Crypto people sueing each other for being Ponzi-schemes is really
Berlin/Germany
sarcozona
89 days ago
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Epiphyte City
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Influencer Creep

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When influencers first emerged, they were met with some skepticism from advertisers. Compared to conventional celebrities, bloggers and vloggers were often positioned as risky and unpredictable, operating in a messy and frequently scandalous online Wild West. Disciplined in part by the precarious and ever-shifting work environment created by social media platforms, influencers learned to protect themselves and their content by anticipating and responding to algorithmic changes, researching optimization strategies to gather visibility. Reticent advertisers pushed influencers to embrace consistency, and they distilled their work into comforting and legible formats and genres: “get ready with me,” “story time,” and “challenge” videos and the like.  

The job of influencer, in other words, involves learning how to constantly accommodate oneself to the means of establishing and maintaining visibility. That work, in turn, could be broken down into three core pillars: consistent self-branding (defined by sociologist Alison Hearn as “self-conscious construction of a meta-narrative and meta-image of self); self-optimization for platforms (organizing one’s content to be recognizable by algorithmic systems); and commitment to selling authenticity (that is, doing all of the above while remaining “relatable” and “real”). A quick glance at TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio’s recent content, for example, shows the use of a consistent sweatpants-and-crop-top aesthetic (key tenets of her “girl next door” self-brand), cute stunts optimized for virality (e.g., buying her mom a billboard for Mother’s Day), and a canny documentation of authentic “backstage” moments (tidying her messy bathroom, falling during a dance move, documenting an unpleasant body rash).  

Post more, respond more, share more. And as with mission creep, there is no apparent way out

Such concerns (and behavior) were once mainly the purview of hype-house members, beauty TikTokers, Twitch streamers, and the like. But it has begun to extend beyond those who think of themselves as influencers. Considerations about how to present oneself on platforms have become a part of the everyday routine for a broader swath of the workforce. In a recent piece for Salon, Brooke Erin Duffy detailed how influencer culture has become part of many careers, including journalism, academia, medicine and finance, even as influencers are still often singled out for their social media “hustling.” The expectation that one be “eminently visible,” as Duffy puts it, regardless of profession, is particularly salient against a backdrop of labor precarity, the gig-ification of sectors like journalism and higher education, and an always-on work-from-home culture. Remote workers may perform competence by organizing their work from home spaces into stylish, color-coordinated and highly “professional” Zoom backgrounds. Yoga instructors must take images of daring poses amid dramatic backdrops to build and maintain their following hoping that this online will translate to yoga-class attendance, which has slowed as people continue to work from home. House painters, carpenters, and vacuum-repair people can use their social media to demonstrate their skillfulness and trustworthiness to risk-adverse potential clients, who are nervously shopping around as we teeter on the edge of a recession. 

Although the metrics being chased may look slightly different, what was once a matter of professionalization specifically for influencers is now becoming a part of professionalization in general. If the phrase “mission creep” describes how a campaign’s objectives gradually expand until they entail unanticipated and boundless commitment, we might likewise call the expansion of micro-celebrity practice “influencer creep,” both for how influencing creeps into more forms of work and for how it creeps further into the lives of workers. The mark of influencer creep is the on-edge feeling that you have not done enough for social media platforms: that you can be more on trend, more authentic, more responsive — always more. It lodges in the back of your mind: film more, post more, respond more, share more. And as with mission creep, there is no apparent way out. 

Influencer creep can be felt most keenly in sectors that operate on freelance and insecure labor, in which individuals take on a slate of unremunerated promotional work in lieu of job security. This is not new: In a 2015 book, Gina Neff defined “venture labor” as an individualized response to corporate risk management, “a model of employee entrepreneurship.” Influencer creep is what happens when that entrepreneurial negotiation of structural risk plays out through social media platforms and their demands for visual stimuli, “authenticity,” and engagement. Boundaries between personal expression and entrepreneurship, between socializing and commerce, are eroded while the routine, mundane, and the everyday are painstakingly aestheticized. Workers must play to audiences, clients, bosses and platforms all at the same time, with no guarantee that any of it will pay off. 


Influencer creep has a particular impact on artists, who in some respects resemble influencers: They both try to make a living by translating their aesthetic sensibility for audiences in distinctive or ingenious or familiar ways. But if influencers are often derided for seeming to sell themselves out and reinforce commercial values, artists tend to be idealized for seeming to drift above commercial concerns and pursue higher forms of expression for their own sake. Influencer creep jeopardizes that status, even as it takes cues from how successfully some artists have managed to market themselves as brands. As artisanal production, much like other kinds of precarious work, has been partly subsumed by platforms, artists have been driven to augment their existing means of professionalization with influencers’ practices. But as artists are driven to behave more like influencers, influencerization may pass itself off as making other forms of work “more artisanal.” 

Over the past year, I interviewed 20 artists and artisans, including silversmiths, illustrators, ceramicists, and weavers, about how they sustain themselves in a platformized economy. When asked about platforms, most extolled the opportunities that Instagram has afforded them to share their work, connect with audiences, and make money. For some, growing a following on Instagram was what pushed them to quit day jobs and make art full-time. But reliance on platforms has come with a sense of anxiety about factors that remain in tech companies’ hands. The platform’s infrastructure can change or even disappear at any moment. 

In “The Nested Precarities of Creative Labor on Social Media,” Duffy et al. describe how influencers must manage surprises and “fundamentally orient themselves to anticipate the incessant tweaks and oft-unforeseen updates of algorithmic systems.” To keep platforms happy, they must engage in time-consuming tests and ongoing discussions of platform mechanisms, learning to parse black-boxed systems and respond to incremental tweaks. They must also develop a cross-platform brand, creating content specifically attuned to the different platforms’ tones, genres, and vernacular without compromising their own consistency.

Artists who rely on platforms now must be aware of the same things and divide their time between making pieces and managing their social media visibility. They are obliged to produce both art and a portrait of themselves as an artist. This means trying to master forms of communication that may not have much to do with their primary craft. In my interviews, artists discussed the pressure they felt to learn how to use TikTok, or build up an email newsletter, or invest in their personal website. (This echoes complaints heard among celebrity musicians like Halsey, who recently described how her record label mandated that she create a viral TikTok before releasing new music.) A textile artist that I talked to wished she could create a physical version of her Instagram portfolio, despite the fact that her work already consists of material artifacts. 

But it is not as though artistic practice was once somehow unstained by economic considerations before. The economic context of artistic distribution has always shaped who is viable as an artist and what works are classified as art. As sociologist Howard Becker explains in Art Worlds (1982), “since most artists want the advantages of distribution, they work with an eye to what the system characteristic of their world can handle. What kinds of work will it distribute? What will it ignore? What return will it give for what kind of work?” That system will shape which artists can become successful, what is perceived as “talent,” and what kind of work will be supportable. 

The creep toward optimization not only shapes the work artists made but also how they went about making it

The “characteristic system” of art distribution in any given epoch derives from broader socioeconomic conditions. In the premodern era, artists shaped production to the demands of the church or the tastes of wealthy patrons, who in turn assured that the work would be passed on and celebrated. As the ranks of the factory-owning nouveaux riche grew during the industrial revolution, artists catered to their tastes, creating smaller works featuring landscapes, domestic themes, and subjects that mill owners and the like could identify with. The proto-influencer role of the art critic emerged to help solidify the legitimacy of bourgeois tastes outside the established conventions of aristocratic cultural authority. 

In the 20th century, as artistic production diversified, the art world as Becker describes it began to coalesce. For evaluation, legitimization, and distribution of their work, artists came to depend on a world of galleries, agents, critics, and so on, all of whom were motivated and constrained by prevailing economic conditions (i.e. capitalist relations of production and the discipline of “market forces”) as well. These intermediaries created lucrative art markets and encouraged a rationalization of artists’ work to render it predictable, comprehensible, and palatable for audiences, especially the consumers who were willing to pay for it.  

With the increased prominence of social media platforms and the rise of what Nick Srnicek has called “platform capitalism,” the nature of the cultural intermediaries have changed again, becoming algorithmically enacted and hyper-individualized. That is, each artist’s work is contextualized based on their personal profiles and not by their participation in art-specific institutions and practices. Consequently, social media platforms don’t merely rationalize art practice so much as optimize it, which media scholars Jeremy Wade Morris, Robert Prey, and David Nieborg have defined as “the process of measuring, engineering, altering, and designing elements of digital cultural goods to make them more searchable, discoverable, usable, and valuable in both economic and cultural senses.” Thanks to social media, production and content can be constantly monitored and adjusted to maximize their potential for visibility and engagement. Artists are beholden not only to art markets — from which they once could keep a safe personal distance even as they depended on it — but to the principles of search-engine optimization, as filtered through the successful practice of influencers.

When demands on artists are structured not only by the conventions of the art world but by social media’s affordances (and how these have shaped audience expectations), everything about an artist’s practice can be affected. Many of the artists I spoke to confirmed this, detailing how they optimized many different elements of their practice to be visible on Instagram, including their art’s content and form, drawing on research into digital marketing strategies, discussions about how algorithms work, and personal hunches based on their own experiments. For example, an illustrator said that she thought her stripped-back style “lends itself really well to Instagram and social media and that quick scrolling that people do … There’s not a lot of detail there to inspect or appreciate, and there’s not materials involved that maybe would be more appreciated in real life versus online.” At the same time, artists who made small, intricate pieces struggled to represent their craft on the platform. Another artist told me that she had moved toward portraiture in place of landscapes purely because Instagram appears more likely to promote images with faces — a commonly held theory that style blogger Tavi Gevinson once famously tested in a post hashtagged #myalgorithmjourney. Nearly every artist I spoke to said that they believed posting a selfie would reliably give them an audience boost.

But given that Instagram’s’ algorithms (likely bolstered by audience preferences) seem to favor images of thin, light skinned women, as Salma El-Wardany describes, this has problematic implications for which artists get seen. Artists and artworks that fit within the hegemonic bounds of beauty will get bigger algorithmic boosts than those that do not. One Black artist told me, “When I post light-skinned Black girls, the response is better.” A maker who produces handmade tights told me that she tried to vary the images of her product, but those that include professional models always “did the best.” 

The creep toward optimization not only shapes the work artists made but also how they went about making it. Presenting “artist” as a lifestyle tends to do better on social media than artworks themselves, so artists experience pressure to present themselves as their content. One illustrator described how the time-lapse videos of her drawing she made by wearing a distracting and cumbersome GoPro would get thousands of likes on Instagram. Another illustrator rigged an overhead tripod camera in her studio to capture her process. Others explained how they developed an ad-hoc studio-visitation schedule to take “backstage” images of each other. 

Influencer practices reflect how those imperatives structure what we do

All artists I spoke to engaged in self-branding, presenting not just their work but themselves as a commodity for sale. As one maker stated, “You have to sell your world.” To build a seductive narrative around her art, one artist crafted her small flat into an enviable Instagram backdrop for staging “shelfies” and “mantelscaping.” (She told me she was currently trying to push into “bedside tablescaping.”) A basket maker who uses homegrown willow explained that “it’s the easiest craft on the planet to represent because it’s so photogenic.” Photographers have repeatedly volunteered to take photographs of her process, and she was under no illusion about what she was selling: not so much baskets as the perfect, bohemian, linen-clad family. 

As backstage reveals become more central to artistic viability, they could shape where art can be made and what kind of art is worth making. What looks best for the time-lapse? What is the most aesthetically appealing backdrop? If the process isn’t relatable or photogenic, it might not be worth an artist’s time. And as their “backstage” content is up for scrutiny, it isn’t really a backstage at all. Artists must share more and perform more as the spaces in which to retreat are steadily incorporated.


With trends toward growing labor precarity and the platformization of social and working life, the influencer creep touches more and more work: Walmart has opened their “spotlight” employee influencer program, in which a select group are compensated for producing Walmart “behind-the-scenes” content, including a cross-country “Walmart dance party.” Employees of Wendy’s, Sephora, and Dunkin’ Donuts have been made similar offers, inviting individual workers to take on the techniques pioneered by influencers, who serve as de facto role models or even consultants. (The gaming YouTuber MatPat has a consulting service for those who want to “up your game as a brand or creator.”) Anyone with any kind of job now can likely imagine how having followers and creating content around their workday could be beneficial, if those requirements were not already mandatory for them.

This is not really a new development; the demand to self-brand has been a central aspect of the neoliberalization of work since it began in the 1980s. In ‘Meat, Mask, Burden’: Probing the Contours of the Branded ‘Self’, Alison Hearn argued that “self-branding illustrates how flexible corporate capital has subsumed all areas of human life.” But in the platform era, social media have become not just a leisure activity but an outsourced layer of management, an ever-present filter selecting for who is most likely to be successful and ensure that they take personal responsibility for “optimizing” how they do it. Influencer practices reflect how those imperatives structure what we do.

For better or worse, influencers make sense of the demands that the new platformed organization of work place on us and provide a kind of playbook for how to keep up. To the degree that artists adopt such responsibilities, they become further aestheticized: The extra work of self-branding is transformed into something that can appear as one’s personal artistic vocation. When the influencer creep is complete, every moment will have to speak to loving one’s job, as if no other sort of experience or emotion were possible. 

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tante
91 days ago
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"When the influencer creep is complete, every moment will have to speak to loving one’s job, as if no other sort of experience or emotion were possible."
Berlin/Germany
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Lacoste Discord among the latest to be hacked

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Lacoste alligator with the text "Lacoste" below it in all caps

So, apparently polo shirts have NFTs now. Fashion brand Lacoste's NFT project is titled "Undw3", which is apparently supposed to be pronounced "underwater"—I guess if you say the 3 in French it sort of sounds like the English... word... "underwater"... anyway. The Discord for that NFT project was one of the latest to be hacked in a string of Discord hacks so prolific that I've basically stopped reporting on them individually. Like many recent Discord hacks, this one was accomplished by compromising a moderator's account. The account was then used to post a fake mint link, and users who signed the transaction approval found their assets transferred to the attacker.

Since the last post about an NFT project having its Discord compromised, five days ago, we've seen at least fifteen more projects suffer the same: Clyde, Good Skellas, Duppies, Oak Paradise, Tasties, Yuko Clan, Mono Apes, ApeX Club, Anata, GREED, CITADEL, DegenIslands, Sphynx Underground Society, FUD Bois, and Uncanny Club.

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tante
108 days ago
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How little the #web3 people care about decentralization already becomes apparent by them all using Discord.
Berlin/Germany
deezil
107 days ago
If they actually wanted something decentralized, they should move all discussions to IRC. EFNet is still around.
Jakel1828
107 days ago
Wait a minute...Are you suggesting Web3 solutions might already exist via Web1.0 technologies? :)
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Solana network halted again

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Solana logo: three horizontal lines with purple-to-green gradients resembling an S, followed by white caps text reading "Solana"

Solana is one of the more popular proof-of-stake blockchains, and is often trotted out as an alternative to Ethereum when people bring up Ethereum's environmental impact, slowness, or high transaction costs.

However, Solana has been plagued with stability issues, and on June 1 it was taken offline by its developers for what CryptoWhale says was the eighth time this year. This occurred only days after an incident in which the Solana blockchain clock drifted significantly behind real-world time.

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tante
125 days ago
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You should really get used to laughing at everyone who proposes Solana as Ethereum alternative.

"Solana network halted again"
Berlin/Germany
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Denial by Potentiality

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When working on explaining and criticizing web3/crypto/blockchain stuff you get used to an unhealthy amount of denial. Denial of history. Denial of technical facts. It’s a denial-rich environment. But especially when it comes to public perception these sorts of denials don’t always work – something tends to stick. Especially when you can’t fully throw the criticism you’re confronted with out of the window because it might be based at least partially on verifiable facts for example.

But web3/crypto/blockchain isn’t the only space with a lot of denial. Recently we’ve seen COVID-19 denial even when faced with thousands of dead people. We’ve seen a lot of climate change denial and people pointing at snow somewhere as an argument against the very obvious kinds of changes to the climate that I was warned about in school. When I was 10. Which was more than fucking 30 years ago. We see this kind of active denial every day. Some big, some small.

If you’ve looked at tech narratives for a while repeating patterns emerge. And these are of course very interesting not just as product plans and roadmaps or aspirations of what to do and build but also as tools. Because narratives are tools or at least can be used as such. And one such tool that tech provides is a denial machine that doesn’t make you look as defensive as denials usually do. I call it “Denial by Potentiality”.

Denial by Potentiality is a move where you take some criticism or the description of a problem and argue with potential solutions as if they existed. This strategy lets you appear forward-looking, solution-oriented and lets you even “accept” and at the same time ignore the problem or criticism without having to do anything about it. It’s a hidden form of denial. Let’s look at examples.

We all know that the big 2 blockchains (Bitcoin and Ethereum) use as much energy and create as much CO2 and e-waste as some small to medium sized countries. Those are very simple measurable facts. But the Ethereum community especially embraces the denial by potentiality strategy: They talk and write about their plans to move to a different consensus algorithm soon(tm) and have been for years. They accept the wastefulness of their project right now and their answer is to solve it in the future and pretend that it is solved. While still burning ungodly amounts of energy to power their little garbage machine. They don’t actively deny the facts but can act as if they did.

Another example I’m seeing a lot is the idea to solve climate change through some sort of magic future tech. Often it’s “AI” but some other stuff gets thrown around as well. They idea is not to be a climate change denier (which really doesn’t fly anymore aside from the political right) but to claim that future, potential technological developments will solve the issue. This allows you to distract from the currently required actions to save the planet we all live on while maybe even getting some funding for some wild technological goose chase to keep you entertained. It’s actually quite irritating how often this move is pulled not just by very industry-focused groups but by eco-NGOs and politicians in that space. Because we have to be clear here: Saying that a future “AI” will solve our climate issues through whatever is a form of climate change denialism. It just looks less stupid because you can also talk about all the potential jobs the potential tech will bring to potential people. Potentially.

The list goes on. In Berlin where I live the currently governing people want to solve the pressing issue of current rents being grotesquely high with setting up incentives and support structures for companies to build new apartments. In the future. The future and its potentiality is sometimes a tool for denialism.

This form of denialism is so tempting because it not just allows people to continue doing the harmful stuff they are already doing but because it allows critics to attach to it as well: You can make a name for yourself writing about how to build the climate controlling and saving “AI” and what issues might emerge. You can spend your days thinking about how high rents in non-existing buildings that nobody knows where to find room for could be or should be. Potentiality is great because everyone can be busy playing with it together. It’s kind of a role-playing game just instead of having a dwarf with an axe you have badly-adapted SciFi fan fiction.

Not every analysis of future potentials or the narratives building them up is pointless or harmful, quite the opposite. But I think it is very important to understand how these – maybe even well-meaning narratives – can enable denialism that looks friendlier and more positive than its usual form but that works just as destructively.

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tante
127 days ago
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Refering to future potential when faced with criticism of web3 or blockchain or climate change is a form for denialism.
Berlin/Germany
sarcozona
127 days ago
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Epiphyte City
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