Thinking loudly about networked beings. Commonist. Projektionsfläche. License: CC-BY
2208 stories
·
97 followers

Lacoste Discord among the latest to be hacked

1 Comment
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.

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

Solana network halted again

1 Comment
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.

Read the whole story
tante
23 days ago
reply
You should really get used to laughing at everyone who proposes Solana as Ethereum alternative.

"Solana network halted again"
Berlin/Germany
Share this story
Delete

Denial by Potentiality

1 Comment and 2 Shares

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.

Read the whole story
tante
26 days ago
reply
Refering to future potential when faced with criticism of web3 or blockchain or climate change is a form for denialism.
Berlin/Germany
sarcozona
26 days ago
reply
Epiphyte City
Share this story
Delete

What We Can Afford

1 Comment


This comic is by myself and Kevin Moore.


IF you like these cartoons, support them like a suspension bridge after the holidays but before three shakes of a cat’s tale of woe by supporting my patreon!


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has six panels. Each panel shows the same two people talking, a middle-aged male politician type wearing a well-tailored suit, and a younger woman wearing a jeans jacket over an untucked yellow shirt.  We’ll call the two characters “SENATOR” and “ACTIVIST” for purposes of this transcript.

PANEL 1

Senator and Activist are talking, although the Senator doesn’t look like he wants to be in this conversation – he’s looking at his cell phone. The activist is facing him and looks serious, holding a palm up in a “here’s the point I’m making” gesture.

ACTIVIST: Good welfare programs can actually save the government money. Homes for the homeless, health care for children and pregnant women, free pre-K education, good vocational education in prison… All these programs save us money in the long run.

PANEL 2

A close-up of Activist, smiling and pressing a forefinger to the side of her head.

ACTIVIST: We should do these tings because they’re the right thing to do… But they’re also the smart thing to do.

PANEL 3

The camera has backed up enough so that we can see that the two of them are standing on a big pile of cash. The senator is smiling and shrugging. The activist is gesturing at the cash they’re standing on.

SENATOR: Even if that’s true, we just can’t afford it! The debt, the deficit… The country’s broke!

ACTIVIST: What is this we’re standing on?

PANEL 4

The “camera” has pulled back even more, and we can now see that the two of them are standing on top of a huge load of money being carried by an enormous dump truck. There’s so much money that it rises high above the sides of the truck’s, um, you know, that space that big trucks have that they carry their loads in. I’m sure there’s a word for it, but I don’t know what that word is. Anyway, the pile of money rises high above whatever we call that.

(The word “Moola” is painted on the front of the truck).

SENATOR: This? One of our daily dump trucks full of money for huge tax breaks for rich people and big corporations.

ACTIVIST: And what is the truck standing on?

PANEL 5

The “camera” has pulled back even more, and now we can see that the dump truck full of money is parked on top of a pile of money that’s huge even when compared to a giant dump truck. The money is on top of a cargo ship, which is floating on the ocean.

Se can still make out the Senator and the Activist, but the camera is now pulled back so far that they’re little more than tiny dots.

SENATOR: Let’s see… The truck is on top of one of our daily cargo ships full of money for the military.

PANEL 6

The “camera” has zoomed back in to a close shot of the two people. The Senator is talking with a neutral expression. The activist is face-palming.

SENATOR: Why? What’s your point?


This cartoon on Patreon

Read the whole story
tante
34 days ago
reply
"What we can afford"
Berlin/Germany
Share this story
Delete

Kids’ Stuff

1 Comment

In 2010, venture capitalist Chris Dixon wrote a blog post that sought to explain why the multimillion-dollar businesses that once dominated the consumer web at the turn of the millennium — companies like AOL or AltaVista — had been displaced in a single decade by the likes of Facebook and Google. The answer, he argued, was not that the older companies were complacent or stupid. Rather, “the reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a ‘toy.’”

By this he meant that when disruptive technologies first emerge, vendors and consumers often overlook their novel utilities, since their assumptions about use and value are still framed by old paradigms. Compared with the existing tools that seem to sufficiently address consumer needs, the new tech seems trivial, redundant — a toy. In time, however, the new invention disrupts our understanding of utility itself: It creates new kinds of demand, new use cases and new satisfactions, cornering new markets and eventually turning the tables so that the old systems now seem like kids’ stuff.

The “commoditoy” refigures consumption as a continuous loop

As a theory of how particular technologies come to dominate the market, Dixon’s idea is not especially illuminating. Facebook and Google did not succeed because their competitors misunderstood what they were offering; rather they emerged victoriously from a commercial struggle with a range of companies offering similar services. But it does work as a piece of rhetorical ju-jitsu, seeming to transform any criticism into a source of strength. Every snarky takedown further proves that the target is a misunderstood visionary, being punished for peeking a little further over the horizon than their short-sighted peers. In this sense, it perhaps offers some insight into the behavior of certain Silicon Valley founders — recall Mark Zuckerberg attending a meeting with Sequoia Capital in his pajamas, for instance. In a culture where innovation is fetishized, creating the impression of being written off by the square world helps confirm your disruptive bona fides.

We are 12 years on from Dixon’s blog post. Its author is now general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, the VC firm funding some of the most hyped startups in the rapidly expanding crypto/metaverse/web3 space. His prolific posting has turned him into something of a guru, and among his followers, “the next big thing will start out looking like a toy” is one of his most popular mantras. This in itself is no surprise. Many crypto enterprises depend on mobilizing a critical mass of investors around a project with extremely basic functionality. If their confidence starts to get shaky, then you’ll need some good slogans to stave off the “FUD.”

However, a look at some of the biggest projects in the crypto space suggest that the “future will look like a toy” is not just rhetoric but a core element of their design philosophy. I don’t mean that they offer hidden utilities that transcend consumers’ blinkered understanding of their own desires. I mean that they seem like they’re made for children. Take a look at the collections at the top of NFT marketplaces, or “play-to-earn” games like Axie Infinity, or any of the multitude of metaverses currently being peddled, and it appears that Dixon’s prediction has been turned inside out: Start out with a toy, and it will become the next big thing.

Across the crypto space in general, there are a wide variety of aesthetics, as one would expect given that visual artists have been at the vanguard of experiments with NFTs, DAOs, and other cryptoeconomic structures. But at the top of the market, things are far more homogenized. Hordes of profile-pic-style (PFP) NFT projects hew to the same stylistic templates, typically either Cryptopunk-esque pixel art or post–Bored Ape cartoons. The most prominent metaverses, from Meta and Microsoft to Decentraland, are cut from the same cloth: simple lines and shapes; blocks of bright color, primary, pastel, and neon; cartoonish cutesiness, sometimes blended with mild puerility. Elements of visual style are borrowed from media directed at or favored by children, whether it’s the blockiness of Minecraft or the pitiless black-eyed stare of Funko Pops. Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse seems to cop its look almost entirely from the Nintendo Wii, with its egg-headed avatars and sterile laminate finish.

Why have these purportedly revolutionary technical innovations adopted such a juvenile aesthetic? Some of this might be attributed to technical teething problems. Profile-pic NFTs are produced in batches of thousands, often through procedural generation, so simplicity is essential. Meanwhile, an interactive 3-D world that can support thousands of simultaneous users remains a daunting programming challenge, which can be mitigated by adopting a low-res, cartoony finish.

Then there’s the problem of mass adoption. Crypto is a notoriously opaque and unforgiving milieu, so a toyish visual style can be seen as an attempt to help outsiders over the intimidating technical and demographic hurdles. It’s familiar, and it seems to promise innocent fun, unlike the anhedonic Skinner boxes of current social media. Framing crypto assets as toys also compensates for their apparent lack of utility or fundamental value, encouraging buyers to imbue them with sentimental worth just as children invest inanimate objects with imaginary characteristics.

But the toylike aesthetics are also a manifestation of an older trend, in which designs and styles hitherto targeted at teens permeate mass culture. Today’s biggest movie franchises are based on intellectual property that a few decades ago might have been seen as the preserve of teenagers. Video-gaming has likewise transitioned from being widely seen as an adolescent pastime to a more or less universal pursuit. Collectible dolls and trading cards are now marketed to all ages. If we want to understand why crypto looks the way it does, it may help to situate it within this broader process.


When we think of toys, we typically imagine objects which have been designed purposefully for children to play with. But as anyone who has spent much time around kids will observe, this is only half the story. The word toy is both a noun and a verb: It’s not just a type of object with particular qualities but a way of relating to any object, regardless of its design. The space between these two uses of toy is where the qualities of creativity and imagination often associated with childhood come into their own. Kids don’t just imbue the toys they are given with magical powers and lifelike agency; they also appropriate otherwise mundane objects (pieces of luggage, twigs, dangerous kitchen implements) into their universe of make-believe. In this way, children are prodigious inventors and discoverers of new meanings, utilities, and values in the inert world of objectivity.

For some writers, this inventive capacity helps make children powerful instinctual critics of the absurdities and hypocrisies of the grownup world. In his essay “Toys and Play” Walter Benjamin observed that “toys are a site of conflict” where the adult’s desire to impose aspirations and behavioral standards clashes with the child’s inclination to experimentation, discovery, and free play. Children’s relationship to their toys lets them take issue with the value systems being handed down to them.

Likewise, Benjamin’s friend Theodor Adorno argued in Minima Moralia that child’s play has a utopian dimension. “In his purposeless activity,” Adorno wrote where, “the child, by a subterfuge, sides with use value against exchange value … The little trucks travel nowhere and the tiny barrels on them are empty; yet they remain true to their destiny by not performing, not participating in the process of abstraction that levels down their destiny, but instead abide as allegories of what they are specifically for.” To the child’s mind, there is no such thing as profit; the truck completes its imaginary logistical adventures for their own sake, not for capital accumulation. Here, toys represent a kind of pure use value, unpolluted by the contrived equivalence of the commodity form.

Some of the biggest projects in crypto seem like they’re made for children

But the idea that childhood represents a realm of imaginative freedom outside economic processes is historically contingent. Modern institutions insulate children from the direct pressures of the capitalist marketplace only to discipline them in readiness for it. “A child,” wrote Benjamin, “is no Robinson Crusoe … they belong to the nation and the class they come from.” To the extent that childhood is a “precapitalist” space outside the market, it inevitably becomes the target of capital’s search for new sources of accumulation. Hence what some academics have called the “children’s culture industry”: a global network of media and toy conglomerates whose business is to find new ways to commodify kids’ creativity and sell it back to them.

The emergence of this culture industry in the late 1970s and early ’80s heralded a shift in how children’s toys were produced and sold. Big toy manufacturers began to move away from generic play objects like blocks, dolls, and train sets and toward what sociologist Beryl Langer calls “commoditoys”: branded items from an extended universe of products and content. Franchises create a space in which the object of the child’s fantasy is immediately available to them as an item to be purchased and possessed.

The Star Wars series is perhaps the paradigmatic instance of this new phenomenon, with its 1970s action figures and novelizations presaging the constant deluge of derivative content seen today. For increasingly consolidated entertainment corporations, this strategy is a bonanza, allowing them to republish the same intellectual property across multiple formats. After the Reagan administration loosened FCC regulation of commercials during children’s programming, there was a huge increase in shows where the protagonists were themselves toys, available for purchase at all good retailers. This gave us Transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Man, and a cornucopia of other IPs that will now presumably be constantly recycled until the sun explodes. Between 1982 and 1994, Hasbro produced more than 750 G.I. Joe toys, many hundreds of which featured in the accompanying animated serial.

With commoditoys, Langer writes, “each act of consumption is a beginning rather than an end, the first or next step in an endless series for which each particular toy is an advertisement … the moment of possession is the beginning of desire.” The commoditoy refigures consumption as a continuous loop, leveraging the child’s propensity for imaginative association to build dense fictional worlds in which each purchase refers them to another. The child’s impulse to “toyify” — that is, to discover new utilities and values in a thing by treating it as a toy — is met by a universe of readymade meanings, characters, stories and emotions, each of which simultaneously constitutes a potential commercial transaction. The process of “bringing to life” that occurs so often in child’s play is reified as the possibility of buying and possessing the object of your fantasy in toy form. An imaginative leap leads directly into an act of consumption, a process which can be extended across a potentially infinite series. Play becomes a form of collecting.


In succeeding decades, the logic of the commoditoy has been absorbed into the heart of the culture industry’s global business model. Blockbuster films are invariably contained within a broader “cinematic universe,” replete with opportunities for merchandising and cross-promotion, while old franchises are constantly rebooted or scavenged for saleable parts. Following the acquisition of a popular license, derivative content blossoms across all channels — sequels, prequels, spinoffs, animated series, videogames, Lego, Lego video games. In an industry terrified of commercial and aesthetic risk and clinging to its remaining clutch of valuable properties, what was once a marketing strategy directed explicitly at children has become a defining rationale.

The fusion of entertainment and tech has created a host of new opportunities for this kind of serialized consumption, while also speeding up the tempo with which play shuttles into consumption. Fortnite has pioneered the integration of culture industry IP with a microtransactional digital economy, creating a space in which all our favorite toys are available to us quite literally as “consumables.” Roblox, meanwhile, has made great strides closing the gap between play and child labor. These 3-D sandbox experiences are one of the main models for the metaverse-style experiences that tech companies are hoping to mainstream in the coming years. In this sense, just as early adopters of social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook were test subjects for the gamified engagement mechanisms that define those platforms, so have children been recruited as pioneers at the next frontier of cultural consumption, one based around the perpetual consumption of virtual toys. To quote Mark Fisher, “Blitzed with capitalist hyperstimulus … children occupy the frontier-zones of capitalism, operating as probe-heads in what, for adults, is the future.”

An imaginative leap leads directly into an act of consumption

The toylike aesthetic that predominates at the commercial end of crypto applications is one ramification of this. It’s become conventional for PFP NFT projects to describe their ultimate goal as creating entertainment franchises in the mold of Star Wars or Marvel. Bored Apes have their own cartoon, their own “band,” an upcoming film, and, most recently, a virtual land register for their upcoming metaverse, which has so far absorbed around $300 million in investment — all aiming to at least give the impression that owners of their NFTs will one day hold a stake in a sprawling multimedia empire.

It’s easy to pour scorn on such a wide disparity between means (cartoon animal drawings) and ends (global media empire), but these projects are essentially attempts to build a commoditoy from the bottom up, beginning with the structure of serialized financial transactions and then, supposedly, creating the stories, characters, and worlds that are the pretext for all that consumption afterward. The toylike aesthetic is both an advertisement for the universe of “content” that will one day validate the NFT as an investment vehicle and compensate for its current lack of meaning or utility, encouraging the buyer to form an affective attachment to what is right now nothing more than a few lines of code in a distributed ledger. “Crypto-toys” collapse the distinction between a financial and an emotional investment — a necessary maneuver for a digital asset class ultimately backed by nothing more than flows of sentiment.

Of course, the pot of gold at the end of all those NFT project roadmaps is not a cross-media IP franchise in the traditional sense but a metaverse. Again, these ambitions are pure expressions of commoditoy logic, imagining a condition in which not just individual toys but the entire “extended universe” of IP come to life as a continuous whole, erasing the distinction between content, advertising, and commerce once and for all. This vision of the metaverse is as a closed loop of serialized consumption, where each user’s desire expresses itself as an ever-expanding collection of toys.

It would be easy to conclude that if aspiring tech disrupters are making products that look like toys, it’s because they want their users to act like children. However, the issue here is not so much the prospect of universal infantilization as the model of childhood being offered. Commoditoys seek to exploit the creative and affective receptivity of kids, their inclination to experiment with value and meaning, while suppressing their imaginative freedom and autonomy. Crypto-toys mobilize the same structures in an effort to recruit a mass audience to the crypto world’s gamified financial systems.

In the process, they disseminate a version of childhood in which toys and play have been accommodated almost entirely to consumption. But this vision does not exhaust the possibilities of any of these things. One of children’s most admirable qualities is that they never accept the world as it’s given to them. A playing child measures the limits of her circumstances against the extent of her imagination; her toys, at once dumb things and animate beings, help her see that the nature of objecthood isn’t necessarily as objective as it might appear. These are the kind of attitudes worth cultivating at any age. Faced with attempts to reconfigure childhood as an infinite cycle of commodification, the best response may not be to tell everyone to grow up, but instead to decide what kind of kids we want to be.

Read the whole story
tante
46 days ago
reply
Framing crypto assets as toys also compensates for their apparent lack of utility or fundamental value, encouraging buyers to imbue them with sentimental worth just as children invest inanimate objects with imaginary characteristics.
Berlin/Germany
Share this story
Delete

Drop Whatever You’re Researching and Start Working on Crypto

1 Comment and 2 Shares

Comments

Read the whole story
tante
46 days ago
reply
"Drop Whatever You’re Researching and Start Working on Crypto!"
Berlin/Germany
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories