Why Ecosystems Are Important For Building The Blockchain Operating System Of The Art World

Jacqueline O'Neill
Oct 23, 2018 · 4 min read
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Image by dmitro2009

“A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment” is the standard definition of an ecosystem.

And while they may be nothing new in the natural world, ecosystems are becoming vital for various industries adoption of blockchain applications.

The reason ecosystems make so much sense for blockchain is due to the technology’s structure. It’s a distributed network of companies, nodes, and people working from all over the world, with each participant considered important to the health and efficacy of the whole.

Nowhere is this system more essential than in the art world — a complex system that relies on multiple parties to sustain a workable industry.

While the notion of an “environment” may no longer be purely physical, ecosystems are going to be crucial for building equitable blockchain operating systems as the industry moves forward.

Here’s why:

Ecosystems are synonymous with blockchain’s technical and social ethos.

Blockchain may be a distributed network, but the term “network” doesn’t really capture what makes it unique and reliable for spaces like the art world.

A network is simply a group that’s connected, whereas an ecosystem implies connection for a purpose. There’s utility involved — people coexisting and collectively upholding each other and acting together.

If everyone works together, the value of an ecosystem increases exponentially. But the concept collapses if everyone is only focused on benefiting themselves without benefiting a partner or larger whole in return.

Socially, this system has the potential to bring about greater equality and opportunity.

Everyone who participates in an ecosystem is an essential part of creating a change, upholding that change, and ensuring it has a chance to last.

That’s why our team is exploring all the ways in which an ecosystem model can return value to each of those participating in a legitimate and meaningful manner. Everyone involved plays an active role in making the improvements they want to see within their specific industries.

This model is ideal for the art world, because the community is aiming for a holistic system.

As we’ve seen time and again in nature, an ecosystem can’t get along very well when any one of its elements is missing. A pond that experiences a die-off of one species will immediately be thrown out of sync.

In the end, every part suffers.

The art world is the same way. There are all kinds of moving pieces that have to work together in order to keep it running properly.

If there’s going to be a blockchain ecosystem for art, everyone has to be involved.

The art ecosystem can’t function without the artists, of course. But it also must include the private buyers, galleries, auction houses, and museums.

The artists create the art, but without people to buy it, there’s no way to support them and help continue the creative cycle. So the buyers have to be connected to the artists in some way. They have to be exposed to the art before they know they want to buy it.

This relationship can be established by creating connectors — the ways people find each other and build value in the ecosystem, essentially saying, “This artwork is worth it.” In the past those were agents, galleries, or auction houses. Now we have social media and art sites, as well.

If pieces are left out, then the entire community begins to break down. The scope of what’s possible is drastically reduced, and there’s a real danger it can become lopsided and only focus on the needs of one group.

Over time, a blockchain-based ecosystem will allow for greater connection, trust, and value within the art world.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how huge it was for Artsy to bring art online. It broke down silos and moved the art world out of a purely physical model.

Artists aren’t limited by geography or the galleries in their immediate vicinity.

Blockchain provides the next step in innovating within the industry — a web 3.0. It’s given us the ability to ensure the veracity of data online, protect it, and keep it connected to a work of art over time. We can track provenance both physically and digitally while amplifying it online, protecting transactions, and giving credit where it’s due.

I see a future where people are living in a more digitally-connected age. Where someone can contribute value to an ecosystem and be rewarded for that contribution.

But it will require artists — crypto or otherwise — to get involved, to meet up and do more than just commiserate.

The art world needs to iron out issues, discuss the ideal setup for artists, and then work toward it together. If we act now, we can have a real impact on the future blockchain operating systems, and thus the ecosystems, of the art world.

Thanks for reading!

Our team at the Blockchain Art Collective wants to make sure art world changemakers and innovators — whether individuals or institutions — are having an impact on this growing ecosystem.

Sound like you? Fill out the form to apply to the Blockchain Art Collective Working Group.

Blockchain Art Collective

Art Provenance in the Digital Age

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