On Governance & The SuperRare DAO

September 2nd, 2021

Ok, so by now you're probably asking yourself - what's the point of all this governance talk? Is this really something I need to concern myself with? And if so, then how does it work?

To unpack these questions a bit further, let's take a step back and recap how we got to where we are today and why community governance is such an important concept for the digital economy in the 21st century.

The Purpose of Governance

“The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.” – Thucydides

If you strip away all the lofty rhetoric, governance really just means that you have agency as a participant in a social network you care about. Whether that social network is your local town council, a national government or even a Fortnite guild; the core idea is that being able to express your voice and influence the rules of a network gives you agency in that network - and provides you with a sense of ownership in the outcomes.

Agency is such a powerful human need that in the 20th century, millions around the world took up arms and struggled mightily for the right to political agency and self-governance. While not everyone cares to exercise these hard-fought rights on a daily basis - what matters most is that a small group of dedicated individuals CAN make their voices heard, influence the terms of public debate, and ultimately catalyze systemic change on behalf of the whole population if their ideas are sufficiently popular.

Never doubt that a small, dedicated minority can change the course of human history. Indeed, historians believe only 20-30% of the colonial population in North America supported the American Revolution when it began...and how lucky we are for that intransigent minority!

Crypto-networks to the rescue!

Two decades into the digital revolution we find ourselves at a cross-roads. On the one hand, we enjoy being connected to billions of friends & family on Facebook, and being able to order anything and see it arrive to our door in 48hrs. On the other hand, we see the unparalleled concentration of power into the hands of centralized platforms like Twitter or Amazon, unaccountable to their users, who strip-mine our data and unilaterally decide whether certain products are 'worthy' of being sold, or which opinions are deemed 'acceptable' for public consumption. These business models - while economically powerful - systematically disempower their users, looking more and more totalitarian as the years click by.

Reconciling this lack of individual agency with the political traditions of western democracy was becoming increasingly untenable until the invention of blockchain technology twelve years ago. Unlike the centralized business models of old, in blockchain networks (aka 'token-governance' networks) decision-making and rule enforcement is left to individual users of the network, rather than placed in control of a centralized authority. This model not only up-ends the tyranny of such centralized systems - it allows for broader distribution of the value created inside such networks to those very users. In sum, blockchains are a revolution in our models for both social AND economic organization.

Token governance is revolutionary because it allows for incentive alignment and coordination among large groups of strangers AND because it allows for more open and meritocratic platforms than any centralized competitor could ever be. While the cost of this model is that all token holders share equal responsibility for rule-making in such networks, the benefit is that they also share equally in the value created through their collective governance efforts. As in any democracy, greater individual responsibility and noisier town squares are the cost we pay for real agency and the ability for a lone voice to shake the temple walls.

How this relates to SuperRare

As big believers in the token governance model, we've always felt the tension between doing what was necessary to survive (even centralized startups are hard!), and our ideological roots as disciples of the crypto revolution. This tension was made even more difficult by some of the uncomfortable realities intrinsic to the art market; namely that art is inherently subjective, and without curators/moderators to establish context - more art ≠ better art.

Said differently - to appreciate the historical, social and/or cultural value of an artwork (or artist!), the viewer needs more context than that which could be expected from a completely permissionless content network. To make CryptoArt enjoyable and accessible to the masses, it was necessary that SuperRare play the role of a trusted curator, lest the importance of CryptoArt as a cultural movement be lost amidst the din of collectables and volume-focused marketplaces.

Take YouTube: without humans to sift through and curate the best content (which then informs ranking algorithms), how could anyone ever hope to find the diamonds of content amid the firehose of a million daily uploads?

This problem is significantly more complex when it comes to art, since much of the context around an artwork isn't communicated directly in the piece itself - but is often grounded in the historical and cultural zeitgeist from which that piece was produced. Take this painting:

Guernica by Pablo Picasso
Guernica by Pablo Picasso

To the lay observer this piece looks like a random jumble of discontinuous body parts with an eccentric cubist/post-modern style. If you're unfamiliar with the artist, you could be forgiven for having no idea what you're looking at - or even the sense that this work was historic in any way. But with appropriate context: painted by Picasso in 1937 following the carpet bombing of Guernica in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, revealed at the Paris International Exhibition as a political statement on the eve of Nazi invasion and occupation - this piece assumes its rightful place as one of (if not the most) important pieces of anti-war artwork ever produced. Its cultural impact + memetic value becomes significantly more powerful once that context is shared equally among all observers.

Thus curation is proper, and often necessary, for the broad enjoyment of fine art - whether that art is expressed with oil on canvas or with pixels anchored in a blockchain. By expanding the range of curation available on SuperRare and decentralizing this control to holders of $RARE we believe we've discovered an elegant way of 'threading the needle' between each of these concepts.

What it means to be $RARE

Successful tribes / movements are always built on shared values, common lore and a unifying vision of the future. America is an idea, not a place. And America the idea functions best when there is broad alignment ("rough consensus") amongst its people about their purpose in the world, and the values around which they ought to organize. Focus brings clarity of purpose, and clarity of purpose brings efficacy to collective action - whether for a group of 100 or 100 million.

SuperRare was founded on a simple, yet powerful vision of the future: What if every artist could become their own creative & economic sovereign? In three short years we've made enormous strides toward making that vision a reality. But we've only just scratched the surface of what now seems possible. The time grows near for a digital renaissance, the likes of which we believe could transform art and culture all over the world.

The purpose of the new SuperRare Network is to accelerate this digital renaissance by making artists everywhere truly sovereign for the first time in history. Like the venetian traders of old, we believe artists could become a new digital merchant class, ushering in another golden era of artistic creation and cultural vibrancy.

While we expect the SuperRare DAO to become increasingly more diverse, decentralized and heterodox as time goes on - our earnest hope is that all members of the DAO will take seriously the responsibility to engage with one another on the basis of shared values and common purpose. And that by doing so we can overcome the division and rancor that has afflicted so many online communities. The SuperRare DAO has the potential to lead by example and prove that with the right values, the right technology and the right shared vision of the future - we are capable of changing the world by empowering each other, both creatively and economically, utilizing blockchains and self-governance.

Let us never forget why we're here: it's not about the money...it's about the revolution.

For art. For culture. And for the history yet to be written.

Our time is now.

Power to the artists ✊

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