Jack Rusher, “What Does It Mean to Buy a GIF”:
Photographic prints can be reproduced in unlimited quantities, but
artists’ signatures cannot. This led to a situation where the
market for art split in two, one fork for collectors and one for
those only interested in the work as an experience. I would argue
that this is good for everyone. Artists gained a way to sell work
that would otherwise be reduced to a commodity, collectors gained
access to a new and culturally vital art form, and great works of
art became available to everyone at very close to the marginal
cost of reproduction. […]
When viewed in this light, the nature of NFTs becomes quite clear.
An NFT is a mechanism by which an artist can publicly attach their
cryptographic signature to a digital work of art. In other
words, it is a technology that supports in the context of digital
arts the same kinds of signed editions that have existed in fine
art photography for most of a century.
To say this explanation made a lightbulb turn on in my head is an understatement. NFTs are the digital equivalent of a signed copy of a photograph. You can copy the art losslessly, but you can’t copy the signature, and that signature has value to some collectors.
I’m still unconvinced that the NFTs — especially as currently implemented — aren’t a scam, and I remain firmly convinced that this initial bubble is a Ponzi scheme of sorts, but I at least have a feel for the basic idea why anyone might spend some money on one.
★ Friday, 26 March 2021