Friday, May 7, 2021

"NFTs and meme stocks are contributing to the financialization of the self"

Without reading more into it than is actually there, NFT's are an interesting phenomena, hyped with a sort of '50's exclusionary Bohemianism: "If you don't get it you're square, man", bringing to mind Ginsberg's "Howl" 1954 - 1955:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night....

Poetry Foundation

From Real Life Magazine:

Play to Lose

With its cadres of investment bankers, institutional investors, massive international flows of cash and commodities and its wealth of arcane instruments, measures, and strategies, the world of finance may appear as practically impossible for an ordinary person to comprehend. Yet this impenetrability is often framed as an opportunity: Personal financial apps (i.e. Robinhood), novel investment vehicles (i.e. cryptocurrencies), and emergent investment strategies (i.e. meme stocks pumped on Reddit) are often framed in terms of the unique and exciting possibilities they offer for outsiders to become insiders.

Often these innovations are framed as giving those who previously could not play in speculative markets — because they lacked access, capital, or training — a new way in, in the name of equality and freedom. The potential for an increasing number of “retail traders” to participate in the stock market is presented as intrinsically good: No longer are the potential boons of investing limited to the already rich! One need only look at how GameStop’s volatility was touted as a “rebellion” or an “insurgency.” Or consider how NFTs have been championed as both a way for disenfranchised artists to get their just due and a means for crypto speculators to diversify the holdings in their wallets. While the NFT market seems to be undergoing a “silent crash,” the hype remains loud.

Minting NFTs is depicted as beneficial for the individuals included, with the 
established financial institutions supposedly being dragged along for the ride 

But retail investing is not exactly new, and digital artists have come up with ways to monetize their work for decades. Why has minting NFTs taken hold in the public consciousness as some hyper-lucrative paradigm shift? Like Reddit stock boards and trading apps and crypto coins, NFTs have been depicted as though they were instruments of financial inclusion, a term often used to described the process of “serving the unbanked and underbanked” by enabling them to open accounts. It has also been more broadly applied to everything from microlenders in developing countries to financial education courses to the zero-free stock trading now offered at many brokerages. Such initiatives are touted as freeing up the intelligence and motivation of individuals that the prejudices and exclusions of conventional finance (much like the art market with respect to creativity) has kept blocked. That is, it is depicted as beneficial for the individuals being included and for society in general, with the established financial institutions supposedly being dragged along for the ride.

Financial inclusion may seem like a way of teaching more people how to successfully participate in speculative markets for their own benefit, but this narrative masks the often predatory terms of the inclusion for the benefit of the existing systems. Just as philanthropically framed microloans allow the global financial centers to open a thousand tiny cuts of interest collection in previously inaccessible areas, the new tech platforms and gimmicks reshape our lives and selves to more effectively serve as resources to be extracted and exploited. As Rob Aitkin argues in “A Machine for Living: The Cultural Economy of Financial Subjectivity,” “the process of financialization … entails the configuration not only of new assets in financial markets but also ever-widening kinds of populations that could understand themselves as risk-bearing, investing or indebted subjects capable of navigating those markets.” Financialization enters our daily lives not just through macroeconomic fallout — unemployment rates and global capital flows — but through the attitudes and behaviors it encourages or forces us to internalize, often in the guise of “opportunities.”...


 I won't do the "Play Toulouse" visual. 

As to artsy obscurities, Angelheaded hipsters are quite enough.