DogeFight and Free Culture

MCMSaturday, May 22, 2021

DogeFight is coming up fast, and as part of the prep for that, I am going to ramble incoherently about some of the reasons I'm doing it in the first place. There's the niftiness of NFTs (heh) and the novelty of blending livewriting with purchasable tokens — but what I'm really secretly excited about is the idea of rekindling the idea of an open source franchise in the crypto era.

Here's the gist: I'm writing a story over the course of a month, and whoever owns the various NFTs related to the story (characters, chapters, wildcards) will be able to change key elements of the plot. I'm not expecting to get filthy rich off this — I'm more interested in the dynamics of ownership and stewardship and how certain kinds of influence affect how people interact with a novel.

Now, because DogeFight is going to be heavily influenced by the audience (down to naming the characters) it's basically what I used to call an Open Source Franchise. Which is to say: anyone can take, adapt, change or extend any part of the story. Spin-offs, artwork, music, games, whatever. I'm making the first commit, but the world can branch and PR this sucker 'til the cows come home.

Why do it this way?

Two reasons: one practical, one principled. On the practical side, it's between "I can't sell this concept to Hollywood anyway, so what's the difference?" and "the more people engage with DogeFight, the less work I'll have to do to advertise it."

But more importantly, on the principled side of things: I'm a Free Culture advocate. I always have been (see The Pig and the Box) and I always will be. To me, NFTs are like the perfect answer to the question I've been trying to answer for over a decade: how do you convince artists to create things online for a mass audience without dooming them to poverty at the same time?

Crowdsourcing kinda solves the problem, but there's generally an insistence on physical rewards, and exclusivity. But NFTs solve the problem: they let your true fans to show their appreciation without denying the rest of the world access to your efforts.

See, the old joke about artists is their getting asked to work for "exposure", but exposure really is one of the things artists need most of all. You can't gain a fan if your work is hidden behind a paywall. You can't be discovered if your business model depends on obscuring your talents.

Artists need exposure, and the world needs Free Culture, but until NFTs, there wasn't a practical way of making those two things true at once. Is it perfect? No, but nothing ever is at first. That's why we try new and crazy ideas, like DogeFight, to see where the bugs are — and then we fix 'em.

In short: DogeFight is coming, and I am kinda secretly hoping a few NFT artists decide to create art to go along with it. Not for my benefit, but for theirs. Because that's how you build something great. Not just a franchise, but a community — by helping each other up, and leaving something cool for the next person to build on.

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