Seed Phrase


Seed Phrase

Simon Denny redet mit Leuten aus der Welt der Kunst, der Technik und Dazwischen über ihre Erfahrungen und Ideen rund um das Web3.

“Seed Phrase” is a podcast about how technology, art, politics, money and power intersect – and how, through their convergence, the much-discussed Web3 could frame new spaces of possibility. The podcast is hosted by artist and THE NEW INSTITUTE fellow Simon Denny and recorded on site in Hamburg.

The podcast delves into a wide breadth of topics: how we can use technology better; how art is reflecting the challenges of the digital world; how blockchain is both a problem and a promise; how decentralization actually works; how the commons provide the framework for a different economy; and how NFTs might figure into these considerations.

Simon Denny invites one guest per episode – from tech, civic society, business, and/or art – and engages in deep and thoughtful conversations that, in the spirit of THE NEW INSTITUTE, are committed to holding open the potential for change.

Guiding the conversation is each guest’s “seed phrase” – twelve words that serve as the key to unlock an NFT – twelve words to unlock their story.

Unpacking the Stories Tech Tells About the World


Unpacking the Stories Tech Tells About the World

On art, technology, and the Seed Phrase podcast. By Simon Denny

Art can be an incredible vehicle for making sense of emerging technologies like crypto, crucial in mapping its social impacts and cultural consequences. There is a lot of both starry-eyed idealism and opportunism around some of these technologies, most prominently Bitcoin; there is also a lot of under-informed criticism blaming crypto currencies for some of the failures of capitalism full stop.

I am interested in something else. In my artworks and research, I unpack stories technologists tell us about the world. I try to tease out some of the social and political adjacencies of the technology industry, looking into how social media and startup culture, blockchains and cryptocurrencies, hold powerful cultural influence and have real-world consequences. The way technology is produced and organized affects the wider climate in many ways, and extractive usage and construction of data can mirror the way the natural world has been exploited for asymmetric, short-term gains.

I try to tease out some of the social and political adjacencies of the technology industry, looking into how social media and startup culture, blockchains and cryptocurrencies, hold powerful cultural influence and have real-world consequences.

Since 2015, I’ve been making work that processes and distills the culture surrounding blockchain, right after the cryptocurrency Ethereum’s launch (Ethereum is the second largest crypto project by market cap, and the most used as an operating system). My contribution to the 2016 Berlin Biennial, Blockchain Future States, included a trade fair-style booth about the ideological vision posed by three nascent cryptocurrency projects, and extrapolated their possible cultural impacts. Aspects of that project have continued to feature in my work into the present, through exhibitions like Mine and NFT projects like Dotcom Seance, specifying and intensifying as NFTs and crypto became mainstream concerns over the past couple of years.

With the podcast project Seed Phrase – the core focus and outcome of my fellowship with The New Institute – blockchain adjacent artists and technologists from varied backgrounds join me in conversations teasing out the meaning latent in these paradigm shifts. Their perspectives often differ from one another’s – and from my own – but we share the same fundamental investment in making sense of an often-obscure landscape.

All this, of course, is in step with The New Institute’s commitment to critically probing societal developments and applying that insight to build more resilient and values-driven institutions. As the first Artist Fellow at TNI, my intention for Seed Phrase is to more explicitly stage the kinds of conversations that my work has long sought to raise, contributing to the dialogues that will shape crypto’s future as these technologies continue to evolve.


The Problem with Blockchain

Our program director Francesca Bria talks to Evgeny Morozov about how digital technology can be democratized.

  • Blockchain, bitcoin and decentralization can be a promise – and a challenge to a more just and equitable internet.
  • The utopian thinking of Web3 is a reminder of the euphoria of the 90s – this might be very naive and even dangerous.
  • The discourse about Web3 will stay with us – it is relevant in the context of our program The New Hanse.

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