How NFTs are further opening the door to the world of crypto and pop culture

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ISchool professor Lee W. McKnight recognized the lifelong value of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, when used only in a tamagotchi-like online game called CryptoKitties. In 2021, just a few years after this game was developed, the same software that spawned the cute collectible cats was used for NFTs that would sell for millions of dollars apiece.

Although the popularity of NFTs has stabilized recently, McKnight is convinced that NFTs are more than just a fad.

“When every athlete, every music singer, when every youngster – and the elderly and the people of Wall Street – knows all about NFTs and cryptocurrencies, there is something going on that you shouldn’t be thinking is about. ‘a passing fad,’ said McKnight, specializes in blockchain and internet cloud architecture.

An NFT is a digital work of art, image, code, or creation that has been minted onto the blockchain. Originally conceptualized in the 1990s to time stamp digital transactions so that they cannot be backdated, blockchain technology is now being used to create a space where anything published can be owned, tracked and sold as a single object. online.


The majority of NFTs are created, bought, and sold with Ethereum, a type of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is virtual money created by computers performing complex equations. According to a report by Dune Analytics, in the first half of 2021, NFTs generated more than $ 2.5 billion in digital sales thanks to the creations of famous artists, musicians and even athletes who all issued their own NFTs. In this newly intangible and evolving arts industry, many young artists and students, including those at Syracuse University, are getting creative and competing with businesses and celebrities all looking to carve their own corner of it. virtual world.

NFT’s pop culture status peaked in mid-February, when memes such as “Grumpy Cat” and “Nyan Cat” sold for $ 83,000 and $ 600,000, respectively. But cryptocurrency, and in turn the NFT community, has remained a cohesive part of the virtual world despite some people initially viewing NFTs as a fad.

Saniya Moore, a 2019 SU graduate who now reports on cryptocurrency for online digital asset news site “The Block”, said NFTs could be successful because they give the binary world a face of cryptocurrency.

“A lot of people forget that behind every crypto project, there is a human,” Moore said. “There is a team of people trying to do something. NFTs have really shown the human side of crypto and blockchain technology. ”

In addition to acknowledging the permanence of NFTs, Moore said that big auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s that have started hosting NFT auctions represent a paradigm shift in the contemporary art industry. With the evolution of NFTs and virtual art, factors such as geography are no longer a barrier for bidders and artists.

Since the auctions are completely virtual, participation simply requires an internet connection and a device to log in from, as long as the participants have the money to bid, Moore said.

Joey Papoutsis, a 2013 graduate of SU’s Bandier program, is one of the founders of the NFT Illumino repository site, an online gallery where NFTs are organized and bid. Blockchain-based works of art are a new genre of budding art, Papoutsis said.

“There are sculptures. There is traditional oil on canvas. Then there’s some really cool animation and digital art and animated digital art, ”Papoutsis said. “They’re all different mediums, and it’s just a whole new category.”

Since NFTs that have sold for millions of dollars range from memes to artwork by famous artists like Andy Warhol, it’s hard even for Papoutsis to pinpoint what makes an NFT explode. But, he says, it often has more to do with the intention of the artist than the work itself.

Max Biscarr, a 16-year-old multimedia artist, released his first NFT last month, an AI-based animation called “A Reionized Universe.” He’s not a coder or software engineer, but after spending around $ 20 to upload his animation to the Ethereum blockchain, Biscarr now has a work that will exist online forever. For him, it’s not about getting a celebrity-level celebrity or even selling the job, Biscarr said, but about being part of the NFT movement.

“This is the start of something that not only the arts community, but the world as a whole will benefit,” he said.

Biscarr compared the feeling of hitting an NFT to having your own personalized collectible Pokémon card. It’s something that’s very valuable because he did it, and now anyone can see it and know it’s his, Biscarr said. But no matter how good it feels, Biscarr said he doesn’t see himself getting rich through NFTs.

New cryptocurrencies are constantly being created and used in all kinds of ‘pump and dump’ financial scams, McKnight said. But beyond these scammers is a global group of artists and appreciators on NFT sites, as they see legitimate use and longevity in virtual money and art.

McKnight said he sees NFTs becoming a permanent financial infrastructure as well – a new asset class similar to other commodities such as the US dollar, gold or wheat.

The world of cryptocurrency is volatile by nature, and NFTs are no different. As long as artists continue to make art, hoping to be lucky as the pool of bidders grows both geographically and economically, the NFT community will continue to impact the art world, Moore said.

“The original NFT boom looks like it’s starting to die out, but it really revolutionized a lot of digital collectibles,” Moore said. “It really revolutionized the way we see and see art. “

About Bernice D. Brewer

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