“What is the future of the internet?” is a question that, under the glare of Web3, holds promise and opportunity as much as pitfalls and complexity. It’s also an inquiry that Meta Open Arts is hoping to probe with the help of the artists and creative technologists that are forging that future. Hence its newly minted Next Web Seed Grant, a program established alongside NEW INC, New Museum’s innovation incubator.

On August 28, the program announced the 10 grant recipients who will each receive $10,000 to support the development of projects that explore “new models for a decentralized internet.” The Next Web grantees are NEW INC members or alumni who range from new media artists such as Roopa Vasudevan, to developers like Yehwan Song, to collectives including All the Way to Hell DAO. All are working toward the next evolution of the web, while seeking to advance shared power, accountability, inclusivity, and tech equity as essential values in the internet’s forthcoming chapter. Their latest research is set to be unveiled at a community summit this month.

Where Next Web as a grant program makes sense for Meta Open Arts, with its history of backing tech-enabled art (and parent company with significant investment in metaversal prospects), it’s an all the more notable for marking NEW INC and New Museum’s continued engagement with the blockchain. In 2014, New Museum and Rhizome’s collaborative Seven on Seven conference served as the platform for the creation of Kevin McCoy’s Quantum, one of the earliest NFTs. As the institution’s latest Web3 initiative, Next Web, per the press announcement, will further “NEW INC’s mission to support its members and extensive alumni community through expansive professional development, mentorship, and skill-building opportunities.”

Below, three of these NEW INC members and Next Web grantees share more about their work in Web3 and how the program will further their explorations into tomorrow’s internet.

“My vision is for an equitable decentralized internet,” says JAZSALYN, who launched alternate realities _black cyberculture in September. Image: Black Beyond

In September, to address the glaring lack of outlets platforming Black creators and voices, artist and technologist JAZSALYN launched alternate realities _black cyberculture on dublab radio via her Black Beyond platform. Since September, the talk show series has been featuring Black new media artists, delving into their boundary-pushing work and inviting them to “envision solutions and alternative realities.” The Next Web grant will surface breakthroughs gleaned through these conversations, while further tackling equitability in Web3.

As a creator, what drew you to Web3?
There’s a lot of hype in the Web3 “space.” And as an artist it’s difficult to navigate a space clouded by hype. I’m looking to cut through the noise to break down dense jargon surrounding the abstract concepts of Web3 and everything in between (metaverse, dweb, the list goes on).

How will the Next Web grant be used to further your project or research?
I’d love to expand the series into a _black cyberculture retreat to further grow and nurture the seeds of our conversations. The Next Web Seed grant supports the research to work towards this goal.

What is your vision of a decentralized internet?
A recurring question in the talk show series is, “Decentralized for who?” My vision is for an equitable decentralized internet. What’s the point of a decentralized internet, if it’s unstable and inequitable? In theory, dweb (decentralized web) sounds appealing. Yet, so far it’s the same group of players with resources, plus a few tokenized individuals distributing resources among themselves?

“Thanks to the Next Web grant,” says All The Way To Hell’s Eliza Evans, “I’ve been given a chance to explore the conceptual alignments and potential for scale between Web3, mineral rights, and climate justice.” Image: All The Way To Hell DAO

Eliza Evans
Artist Eliza Evans founded All the Way to Hell (ATWTH) DAO in 2020 with a simple mission: to disrupt fossil fuel extraction. The activist cooperative fractionalizes and distributes ownership of mineral rights in the US to as many individuals as possible, effectively intervening in the efforts it takes to develop a fracked oil or gas well. With the Next Web grant, Evans is hoping to unlock the next phase of the DAO, where Web3 tools might play a role in the collective management of mineral rights.

How do you see Web3 reshaping ATWTH’s work?
When I started ATWTH, I had little knowledge of blockchain and cryptocurrency and frankly did not see them as relevant to the work. Thanks to the Next Web grant, I’ve been given a chance to explore the conceptual alignments and potential for scale between Web3, mineral rights, and climate justice. Through fractional ownership of a mineral right threatened by fracking, ATWTH creates a de facto community of interest. No community, no DAO is readymade. But Web3 creates opportunities for recognizing and rewarding participation at scale.  

To you, what about a DAO makes it a good model for social activism?
I think it is not so much a question of whether DAOs are models of social activism; rather, the tools make it possible to convert the care, concern, and energy of participants into more concerted and direct action in a self-organized way. Activism IRL remains incredibly valuable and labor intensive. DAOs can shift some of that burden even as it enriches the possible modes of expression and outcome. 

How will the Next Web Seed grant be used to further your project or research?
One challenge to DAOs being an effective and broad-based platform for social activism and community building is that no one has yet built an effective and seamless onboarding mechanism. DAOs privilege Web3-savvy demographic groups. To join a DAO, despite affinity, requires more cognitive overhead and technological skill than many can muster for many reasons. Access, to my mind, remains a primary impediment to the full realization of DAOs’ potential. The Next Web Seed grant opened the door to a universe, and the research has only begun.  

With Tonii, artists Adelle Lin and Nour Batyne hope to “give communities artifacts and the authority to speak to metaverse technology as a vector towards tech equity, access, and literacy.” Image: Courtesy the artists

Adelle Lin and Nour Batyne
In their joint project, Tonii: Embodying Responsibility, artists Adelle Lin and Nour Batyne are presenting a series of wearable amulets, which can be gifted or held as a personal keepsake. By reimagining “artifacts from the past as objects from the future,” the work aims to bridge ancestral knowledge with the metaverse, thus translating the values of responsibility and accountability into the virtual realm. 

As artists and designers, what drew you to Web3?
As artists and technologists, we like to have our finger on the pulse of transformational change. Our collaboration started because we saw an opportunity for this with Web3. So much of community organizing has scaled through the internet and it has been an almost organic step to see what this might look like in the metaverse. Our practices are also rooted in collaborative experiences and interconnectedness so we’re always finding ways for technology to facilitate that. 

How will the Next Web Seed grant be used to further your project or research?
The grant has helped us refine our method of community engagement, which has to be adjusted with each community, to create artifacts and then circulate those artifacts back into the community. 

Why was it important for the project to emphasize responsibility and accountability in the metaverse?
One of the goals of our project is to help people see their agency in shaping current and future web/connected virtual environments. We want to give communities artifacts and the authority to speak to metaverse technology as a vector towards tech equity, access, and literacy. We believe that we are ultimately responsible and accountable to future generations. As future ancestors responsible for building the metaverse, what values do we want to embody, center, and carry with us? 


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