What If I Don't Want To Be a Creator?
The future looks exhausting.
We’re back on full lockdown in Netherlands with everything closed up for the next month. While 2021 was better (check out our studios report!), let’s hope 2022 isn’t a repeat. Anne Helen Peterson posted about ‘feelings’ and perfectly encapsulated the collective grown of my friends and I…
“I have grey December blahs and those good old “why make plans, Covid just fucking wrecks them” resentments.” Followed by this tweet.
Stay strong people!
…and with that, on to today topic.
Running a studio means looking for business (clients), which means finding people who want to buy your services. If you’ve done it, you know… this is difficult. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. You’re always looking for new clients who need some type of value you can provide. As you solve their problems, they move on, and you need to find new ones.
Yet with Web3, we’re told we can all be creators. We can all monetise what we create. Now, we can all look for clients who want to buy our services! But if you talk to content creators (Twitch, Tiktok, YouTube, etc), you find out it’s tiring leading to burn out after only a few years.
I have to ask, is this the future we want?
Li Jin and Katie Parrott recently put out a newsletter on the renaissance of content with Web3. I’ll put several quotes here as they do a great job breaking down the potential promise, benefits, and potential.
Meanwhile, a new generation of technologies is emerging with the promise to change the balance of power in the creator economy. If the pre-internet/web1 era favored publishers, and the web2 era favored the platforms, the next generation of innovations—collectively known as web3—is all about tilting the scales of power and ownership back toward creators and users.
The dream seems to be encapsulated in this step laid out in framing how ownership will shift.
3.By introducing new programmable economic models that spread wealth across the creator landscape
While this is true, it also means individuals need to constantly be pushing out content.
One reason NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are exciting as a technology is that they give creators the ability to regain control over their own content and re-introduce scarcity dynamics that contribute to monetization.
I love the idea of creating digital scarcity and long term value through a token system. Although while we have the promise of NFTs holding value of time, they need some type of regulation. While they can hold value over time, due to Web3 being the Wild West (WildWeb?) right now it’s easy to simply be scammed out of money. Decentralisation is great until you have no way to fix simple issues.
In the same way BTC and crypto are essentially securities / speculative stocks, NFTs are also essentially a different form of stock. You make an investment to own a piece of the company which gives you special rights and provides a return on value over time. But now everyone can make their own stock and sell a little bit of themselves, hence the idea of giving individuals control over their content.
However it’s not all unlimited potential and promise. I have to love this contrarian view from Brian Eno. It’s true [in a way] that Web3 partially asks us all to become sales people, hocking whatever we can to earn some cash.
“NFTs seem to me just a way for artists to get a little piece of the action from global capitalism, our own cute little version of financialization,” Eno told Morozov. “How sweet — now artists can become little capitalist assholes as well.”
Returning to Li and Parrott again, it’s great we can all earn value from our content, but making and selling enough content to earn a wage on, in a land of abundance, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The end impact cannot be understated: content creators no longer need millions of fans to make a living, but can survive on the contributions of a passionate few.
I don’t know how many individuals reading this have tried to build a community, but for those who have, getting 100 or 1,000 true paying fans is difficult. This newsletter generates between a few hundred to a few thousand reads depending on the topic. Same with my previous podcasts (Dark Side of Design, Let’s Fix Things). And they’re all free. Trying to get 100 individuals to pay me €100 per year, which is only €10,00 in total, would still be a stretch and require a lot of effort. And in a zero sum world, if I win your cash, someone else loses it.
The promise, and the execution aren’t always the same.
…and what about those who just want simplicity without the hustle?
As I abstract away from the details, zoom out, and try to listen to the cacophony of future sounds, it’s almost paradoxical. One one end, we can all make content, and on the other end, we’re told we’re all too absorbed by social media, spending hours on our phones. We want to enjoy life and take back control from evil corporations, but we have to constantly sell ourselves (and our content) making us no better than the corporations we replace.
Personally I’m not sure I want to have 10 jobs every day, while making videos to sell an online course (from a16z).
Instead, people will earn income in non-traditional ways by taking actions such as playing games, learning new skills, creating art, or curating content.
There is a reason the top 1% of streamers on a service has as many streams as the bottom 50%. There is a lot of crap when everyone can publish, we are influenced by those around us, and we only have so much time and attention to search for new things. marketing and advertising are still predominant because they work. Is the future really so different? Or do we just want it to be, as we search for any way out of our current lives. Especially the last two years and collective malaise.
The room for those who don’t want to be creators? Those who simply want to enjoy life and not sell.
As far as I can see, companies will still exist. People will still need places to work. They will just use different technologies.
Perhaps that’s the future where DAO’s come in.
Through clear voting rights and smart contracts, decisions can be automatically completed. No longer will Amazon warehouse conditions be horrible when we can all vote to make them better. Of course when it was put to a democratic vote to unionize for better benefits at Amazon, people still said no (yes, I’m aware this is now being redone). Does voting and control really change that much if the people are unchanged? I’m halfway through Supernova Era and thus far there is a reason we don’t want to simply turn everything into a majority voting system. As we heard in Men in Black, “People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”.
Should we really trust in the wisdom of crowds? The public revolted, and we cheered it in the Arab spring, but then condemned it in the January 6th Washington DC Capital Riots. While both may have very different political stances, they both share an anger of voicelessness, the feeling of oppression (real or not) and a lack of faith in the Government.
I’m aware we want more Arab Springs and freedom movements, but we should be prepared for just as many January 6th Capital Riot moments. Giving power to the people doesn’t always arrive at winning scenarios for everyone.
We talk about how Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube should have built in controls for content creation, content regulation, hate speech and more. Well, now it’s time for DAO’s and NFTs to do the same. We’re right at the beginning, yet we’re only talking about the rosy picture with pollyannish assumptions. Not the burn out, not the mental health issues, not working 16 hour days to make content to keep our 1,000 true fans engaged, and not the devolving of society into an Idiocracy.
As few weeks ago I talked about my frustration around the metaverse as being this new thing, when it’s really an extension of technologies and interactions.
NFTs and DAO’s are the same. Just like the Gig-economy, they are tools for different types of businesses. They will not solve the worlds problems, but they open up more opportunities. I just hope people see that the opportunities don’t need to be for everyone. Don’t let our future become only an extension of gig-work, but rather a flourishing of different models. Corporations weren’t always bad, but we made them that way. I’m sure we can just as easily do it to our future technologies.
Nothing is without issues and problems. We should be talking more about those to ensure there is a chance in the future we want.
Now, who wants to buy this image our studio created for a new team members first day. I’ll trade it for a Bored Ape.
That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading and exploring topics with me!
Until next time!