Cover The panellists in illustrations: Xaix of Punks MY as his Twitter avatar; Ihsan Zolkipli of NFXT as illustrated by Mulo; Nicole Yap of 8SIAN as illustrated by Mr Hike; and Red Hongyi, represented by the character Doge from her Memebank series for 'Doge to the Moon'

While NFTs aren’t necessarily breaking news now, the crypto space has become something of a game-changer for creatives

The rapid development of crypto has left people either on the edge of their seats or off the bandwagon entirely. What began as a way to create a one-of-a-kind digital asset became a billion-dollar industry where, as reported by Reuters on January 11, 2022, the estimated total of NFT sales were over US$25 billion by the end of last year.

At the time of writing, however, an article published by The Wall Street Journal revealed that NFT sales had plummeted by a drastic 92 per cent. While the sudden influx of phishing scams and hackings haven’t helped the situation, buyers reportedly found themselves unable to re-sell the NFTs they bought—especially the ones that were worth four to five figures. Sina Estavi, the crypto entrepreneur who bought the NFT of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet for US$2.9 million, was only able to get a top bid of over US$6,800.

Read also: NFT—Why Digital Art is Here to Stay

Looming uncertainty in the NFT market aside, there's no denying how it drew people into the digital space and the potential this technology could bring to the creative field. We discover more with help from four industry experts in a panel discussion. They are:

  • Red Hongyi, a Malaysian artist whose last NFT project, Memebank, an art collection comprising five banknotes both digital and physical, traded for a total of 227ETH (approximately over US$84,000 at the time of sale) on OpenSea
  • Xaix, the founder of Punks Malaysia, also known as xaix2k on Twitter, is an anonymous collector whose NFT platform had traded over 10.6ETH (approximately over US$37,000 at the time of sale) at OpenSea
  • Nicole Yap, the founder of 8SIAN, an NFT project-turned-community comprising 8,888 NFTs of Asian women that traded a total of 4,500ETH (approximately US$8 million at the time of sales) and was ranked the number one project on OpenSea in 2021 based on the volume traded in just 24 hours
  • Ihsan Zolkipli, the co-founder of NFXT is a community leader that leads one of the pioneering NFT platforms in Malaysia that seeks to empower local artists by elevating them within the digital sphere

See more: Who Is Pak? We Interview the Mysterious NFT Creator

The crux of NFTs lie within the Ethereum blockchain

Ihsan Zolkipli (IZ): Before NFTs, (the conventional model of how the creative industry worked) was that you'd have the guy who fronts the business, the technical guy who runs the backend, and the artist who does the logos as well the collaterals (any kind of media used to promote a company's products and services). The artist is usually the one paid the least. With NFTs, everyone is on the same level; people realise they actually need one another to make things work. The business people need the artists to give them credibility, and they need the technical guys to build the smart contracts and the communication channels. 

Xaix (X): The thing about NFTs is that it doesn't have to be an artwork. It can be anything. The next big thing you'll see trending (with the advent of the Metaverse) is NFT gaming. Essentially, when you play games like Fortnite, every item that you get in the game will be an NFT. And if you buy watches, the NFT would come as a digital certification. And because it runs on blockchain technology, the blockchain is a public digital ledger that is immutable. Whatever data you put on the blockchain therefore cannot be deleted or altered in anyway. It's permanent.

Nicole Yap (NY): Again, because it records your digital assets, you can even digitise your passports or house grants without needing the physical thing. All you have to do is just have a crypto wallet that stores these things. It's the convenience that this technology could bring to the table that's the most exciting for me. Think about the Metaverse. (Ideally) you can run your whole life there. Whether it's getting an education, e-commerce, meeting your friends, playing games to earn money... There's just so many things for you to do in the virtual world

Also read: Artificial Intelligence and NFTs to Innovate a More Equal Future

An over-saturated NFT market isn't a bad thing

Red Hongyi (R): (The sudden saturation of NFTs) have a lot of parallels to the art world—be it digital or physical. But the media isn't focusing on that anymore because it's been a topic in the market for so long. The focus is on NFTs at the moment. But I do feel that the more projects there are, the easier it is to separate what's really good, what's mediocre and what's bad. I don't see the influx of NFTs as a bad thing; I just see it as a better way to differentiate projects.

IZ: There's actually a term called 'flipping'—it's projects that are fuelled by hype, more like fads. And if you compare them to NFT projects like 8SIAN, Memebank or Punks MY, where there are utilities that give back to the community and give value to the collectors, you can easily identify which projects are worthwhile to invest in.

It's not really a cash-grab, or a Ponzi scheme

NY: Whenever I say that I'm running an NFT project, people would ask if I'm doing money laundering. NFTs aren't that! There are people who abuse this technology because it's not regulated yet. Does that mean that everyone in the NFT scene is doing that? No. But what happens is that people would look at these headlines about crypto and assume that it's a scam. That sort of media representation, or the lack of education, actually hinders people from really entering the space because there's already this preconceived notion that NFTs are bad from the get-go. For me, 8SIAN was a project that aimed to build an inclusive community where people could celebrate Asian cultures and the women who live in them. It started when I first joined the space through Discord. When people realised I was a girl, they would tell me things like, "Oh, you don't belong here because this is a place for guys only". That made me really angry because I thought that (the internet) was supposed to be an open, inclusive space. And while NFTs are the medium that bring people together, the possibilities that come with this technology are one of the most intriguing aspects as well.

See also: 5 Female-Driven NFT Projects You Need to Know

HY: From the creatives' point of view, the general public usually looks at successful case studies and go, "Oh, so easy", or 'They just created this pixelated piece and got X amount for that?!" But there's a lot of work that goes into these successful projects. For Memebank, even though it might look like we just created six NFTs, there was actually so much work involved. From marketing, creating the artwork, seeking legal advice to getting PR—it's more than just minting a piece, putting it up there, and hitting the jackpot. 

Yes, it does need to be regulated for it to work better

X: If you let the space become the Wild West, all sorts of things are gonna be there. The reason why Ethereum's gas fees (the cost of minting or producing an NFT) are so high is because it's supposed to hinder people from minting whatever they want. It's supposed to be deterrent to prevent garbage from entering the space. And imagine, if in the near future there are no regulations over the space, can you imagine the kind of content you'd find? Because this is an open space, where everybody from everywhere can access it, you'd have kids seeing pornographic NFTs. To be honest, nothing can truly be decentralised—much like OpenSea. If you really want decentralisation, you're limiting your own eyes and ears because only tech people would know how to go about that. The general public still needs a centralised body to regulate the content shared because that's what keeps the space safe. 

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