Reflection on artistic freedom by Alfons Karabuda: Art and tech will join forces for artistic freedom

IFACCA - International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies,
19 August 2022, International

Metaverse, Web3, NFT (non-fungible token) – you probably all know these buzzwords. Sometimes it seems these are the type of concepts that never get the chance to materialise before they get dated. Web3, the idea of a new, decentralised iteration of the World Wide Web, formulated already in 2014 by disruption artist Gavin Wood, might still make it. The time is certainly ripe for disruption: the unforced, inspired and diverse settler spirit of the 1990s has for far too long now been repressed by large scale colonialisation and exploitation of the internet and its citizens by a few global corporations.

The World Wide Web is no longer the promise of a land of the free. It is but a bleak shadow of what we used to imagine it could be. Instead, we are all queuing to the rides of the great amusement parks of the internet - the platforms - paying in old time money or big data. There are no public spaces left, which hinders artistic freedom and forces artists to conform with the obliterating policies of the platforms. Even though you knowingly agree to the terms and conditions of the platforms, it is often next to impossible to know what one has actually agreed to. And it would not be an exaggeration to assume that you have lost all your artistic rights by doing so. Will you be put centre stage on the main arena of the amusement park, or discreetly referred to the side stage by the rest rooms? Perhaps you will be stored for next season? In either case, you are almost always left with the feeling of having been scammed, not knowing whether your voice will reach out to the public or not.

Through a decentralised World Wide Web, new technical solutions as well as updated and responsive regulatory frameworks, a joint effort of artists and tech to support creativity and artistic freedom in the digital area is possible. This could be termed a New Deal, if you will, to secure common interests of meeting the true wishes, expectations and needs of the public. In this New Deal, tech will be supporting artists to take control of their content and voice. For instance, NFT technology is enabling counteraction of fake artists, fake streams and fake news by displaying provenance of content. Transparency and diversity will, undeniably, follow from decentralisation. Tech will play an even greater role as an enabler of a sustainable society, at a time of myriad challenges including the pandemic, climate change and political attempts to dismantle not only freedom of expression, but democracy itself.

I am both an optimist and a realist: an optimist in terms of believing that the time for tech and art to join forces has come, and a realist in terms of knowing that it is clearly bound to happen. Because, no matter what course the internet is taking, it is certain to be driven by creativity. After all, tech is not feasible without creativity, but creativity will always flow – with or without tech.