Multiple things can be true at once, even when they appear to be contradictory. Granite, for example, can be both solid and ethereal. Hold a chunk of it in the palm of your hand and it’s clearly a rock. View it at the atomic level and it’s a galaxy of particles. How you’d describe it depends entirely upon your frame of reference.
Similarly, NFTs can be trash-ass garbage peddled by blackpilled edgelords and grifters. NFTs can also reshape the trajectory of art in a way that is truly and deeply important.
I’m not interested in grifters or hype culture or anything within the vicinity of get-rich-quick rhetoric. I care about art. Specifically, I care about the fact that as the world shifts to an increasingly digital experience, artists have been left behind. And right now, NFTs look like the only way forward.
The Problem Posed by Digitization and Made Worse by Social Media
Before we can talk about art and NFTs, we need to talk about the digital revolution.
Remember video stores? Back in the nineties, if you wanted to see a movie at home, you had to go to a brick and mortar location, pick out a movie, take it to the checkout counter, and pay for the rental. It was a retail experience. Seeing a movie at home meant carrying a hard copy in your hands.
At first videos were on VHS, then we switched to DVDs, then video-on-demand became a thing and video rental stores became obsolete. Now if you want to watch a movie, all you need to do is summon it from the immaterial void on one of your many devices.
This shift from VHS to DVD to VOD probably seems like a benign progression toward convenience, but it actually reflects a technological development with massive cultural implications.
Essentially, two things happened that completely transformed our relationship to media. First, digitization — the creation of digital copies — came into widespread use. Images could be scanned and converted to digital files. VHS and cassette tapes, which were analog, were replaced by digital CDs and DVDs. Digital files could be ripped from physical discs and stored on your computer, but there were…