Famed American novelist Thomas Wolfe once said, “culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.”
I’d argue the same is true for technology.
The internet unlocked the age of information and opened up global communication and commerce. The iPhone put computers in everyone’s pockets, giving us seamless access to information at the tap of a touch screen. Web3 is transforming human coordination and defining the future of digital culture.
But if we don’t create things people can easily understand and access, the revolution isn’t GMI.
When thinking about the culture that’s taking shape at the intersection of Web3 and art, what beliefs are we elevating?
Open-source technology, innovation, democratization, disruption, decentralization and creative expression — all common inhabitants (and at times, semi-cringeworthy buzzwords) of the Web3 vernacular — come to mind. We love to talk about use cases, value, liquidity, market cycles, roadmaps, product market fit, growth, and other (yes, buzzwords) that can represent success and innovation in Web3.
But most importantly, Web3 should have accessibility built into its core; the opportunity to allow everyone to participate in typically out-of-reach industries.
And at the moment, it often doesn’t, a result of too many clunky, hyper-technical applications and concepts that have led to confusion and criticism of the mainstream users that the Web3 industry needs to attract the most.
So why am I, a Web3 evangelist and founder, sounding like a crypto cryptic?
Many builders in this space agree that Web3 needs an accessibility overhaul if we’re ever to, as many like to preach, “onboard the next billion users.”
I believe this realization is less about sneaking Web3 “under the hood” but instead reframing our perception of accessibility from a cultural standpoint.
You can’t buy talent
While talent and intuition will always be things that you can’t necessarily teach (or buy), the ability to create, connect and converse in cultural spaces deserves a seamlessly accessible experience.
For an industry plagued by naysayers, security breaches, and downright technological failures, Web3 and NFTs deserve this more than ever.
Let me state loud and clear: Many people have been building a relatively accessible onboarding experience for Web3 and NFTs — and shaking up culture as a result. Reddit and Polygon NFTs. Nifty Gateway. Dapper Labs. The potential of open editions to onboard the masses via accessible price points. Even Blur, while marketed at “pro NFT traders,” has a relatively intuitive marketplace platform offering stolen NFT protection on bids, a feature that blockchain has struggled to figure out even while it’s long been commonplace for e-commerce platforms in Web2.
But some proponents of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology continue to prioritize features such as security, decentralization and censorship-resistance over ease of use.
Complexity is perceived as a sign of sophistication or exclusivity — even though the crypto industry is highly diverse with no one-size-fits-all approach.
We need to change the oft knee-jerk mentality that accessibility in Web3 screams “normie” and “low value” and build things that place accessibility, creativity and innovation at the forefront, not only the technology. If we don’t create things people can easily understand and access, the revolution will be halted.
What sparks a culture revolution?
Culture revolutions are marked by generational impact, not standalone market cycles.
Let’s consider what stands out if we look at the movements — whether driven by the arts, commerce, politics or activism — that have truly shaped culture and our consumer habits.
We watch great sports teams play — and become lifelong fans — because of athletes’ ability to perform miraculous feats we can’t perform ourselves. We stream/consume music in more personalized ways, setting the soundtracks to our lives wherever we are.
While the above may vary in price and accessibility depending on who we are and where we come from, music, sports, and the like are (at their core) accessible experiences made convenient for us to consume.
Building products that offer accessibility to finance, culture, and even the seemingly mundane tools of everyday life can create a revolution in culture similar to how the iPod, TiVo, Spotify and the like reimagined access to music and streaming content.
The experiences that truly permeate the culture and achieve maximum impact don’t require any sort of robust onboarding: They certainly don’t require private keys or a crash course in crypto Twitter to participate.
Don’t leave after the opening act
Every person — whether you’re a creator, collector, or company — should have the tools to implement easily available experiences into their products, marketplaces and communities. Not only does this onboard more users (and keep them), but it gives creators the confidence to make more cool things that will infiltrate and stand the test of time in culture.
Web3 finds itself in a difficult period where every decision, new product, customer and headline matters. The good news, as many like to proclaim from whatever elevated service or social media feed is closest, is that we’re still early.
Let’s think about the path behind us as something like an opening act at a local music venue; it’s up to us to design the most accessible touch points to make newcomers, and even regulars, want to stick around for the main act.
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