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Between false hopes and facile critique, there is an emancipatory view of emerging technologies like blockchain. Jaya Klara Brekke reclaims this space for building the world that she wants to see. Her critical engagement with blockchain coincided with its rise to mainstream prominence, and she has remained a vital voice of critique ever since. From her perspective as a researcher, strategist and artist, she talks about the token economy, the impact of crypto on the wider monetary system, and the frequent futility of "good intentions” in the face of powerful social forces.
Jaya’s research has focused on the political relevance of blockchain. Recently, she joined the team at Nym, where she is working to build new infrastructure for robust privacy protection. As one of the first scholars of political economy in this field, her research was a source of inspiration for Simon. “I knew a quick and dirty dismissal of the blockchain was possible”, she tells him in their conversation. “But I wanted to know: What else is there?”
Recently, Jaya made “Dashboards for Posthuman Life”, an art installation about how information is captured and instrumentalized – and what this means for us as users in the ongoing fight to establish data sovereignty. In relation to this work, which debuted at Forecast Forum in Berlin earlier this year, Simon discusses how he responds to ideological debates in his art; his projects such as Blockchain Future States and more recent updates like the Backdated NFT/Ethereum Stamp, for instance, addresses the potential implications of severing the monetary system from the state. Art, for both, makes it possible to stage questions around the human experience of living intertwined with technology.
Seed Phrase is a project by Simon Denny for THE NEW INSTITUTE. This conversation was recorded in Hamburg with a live audience and is made by Georg Diez, Lieke Fröberg, and fx:one audio productions with special thanks to Marieke Prilop and Tom Bodensteiner. The music for this podcast is by Amnesia Scanner, from their Web3 project SCAMMER, which was released as a series of NFTs.