Decentralized Media In web3 Is Not What You Think It Is
Media in web3 is the meta-container for everything related to the DAO or Tokenized Community’s narrative network effect.
This is Body Language: a web3 serial about human-scale interoperability, and the existential tensions that flow from this pursuit. This post was originally published on Mirror, where you can collect it as an NFT.
Let me start by saying what decentralized media is not: decentralized media is not decentralized content creation.
Decentralized content creation is a skeuomorphic mental model that we ported from web2. Web2 social apps already provide the conditions for decentralized content creation. We can look to the meme and narrative network effects enabled by web2 social as a starting place for web3 decentralized media, but we shouldn’t glorify decentralized content creation as an end. Decentralized content creation can be a component of decentralized media, but it’s not a precondition.
Let’s talk about what is decentralized media in web3.
Media in web3 is the meta-container for everything related to the DAO or Tokenized Community’s narrative network effect. This means Media is responsible for ensuring the narrative and POV (vision), brand (strategy), and marketing (execution) are aligned across the entire community ecosystem.
Functionally this stack includes media creation, media curation, and media distribution. By media here I mean anything that the DAO or Tokenized Community outputs. Editorials and podcast episodes are obvious examples, however we should broaden our interpretation of what we consider media; a governance proposal is a great example of medi. (Side note: I believe we should treat governance proposals as media to ensure narrative alignment. If we create governance proposals with the community’s canonical narrative as the first principle, then the proposal will have a greater likelihood of success.)
Progressive decentralization of media starts at the bottom of the stack — distribution. The community supports the narrative network effect through peer-to-peer sharing. This looks like someone Tweeting about a piece of media, or even about the community itself. Decentralizing distribution is one way to engage the community in storytelling.
At the top of the stack is media creation, the facilitation of which should live within whoever is closest to the vision and strategy. This is usually the instigator, founder, and /or core team. These stakeholders should develop the initial narrative and POV and codify it as canon. This canon then provides the necessary guardrails for decentralization progressing down the media stack. If the DAO or Tokenized Community narrative and POV are clear, compelling, and actively practiced then the community will be more inclined to distribute the narrative through their own experience of it in action.
(For more on the role of canon within decentralized communities, listen to this episode of web3 with a16z featuring Rob McElhenney. McElhenney demonstrates one way in which progressive decentralizing starts with a canon through the creation of writers rooms in his project Adim.)
Finally, curation lives in the middle of stack. Curation allows community participation in the DAO or Tokenized Community’s media while also ensuring quality assurance and narrative alignment.
Why DAOs and Tokenized Communities Need Media Verticals
I argue that DAOs and Tokenized Communities should stand up media verticals in the way that we stand up working groups, guilds, or teams to facilitate other critical outputs such as Product, Community, Operations, etc.
In web3, we’re engaged in the unprecedented exercise of shaping the culture of our individual organizations while simultaneously shaping the culture of an entire movement.
We do this via narrative, facilitated by media.
If we acknowledge the role of media in the physical world as the fourth estate, its principal function is to influence the body being governed. Media is agnostic of the specific governing ideology but serves a similar function acrossideologies. From the United States pseudo-democracy to autocratic Russia and China, the core functioning of the media is to inform (influence) or outright control the body being governed.
Layering this line of thinking on top of DAOs and Tokenized Communities, we understand the need for media within all decentralized communities. All DAOs and Tokenized Communities are engaged in decision-making processes; governance is the catchall word for how decisions are made. Narratives — facilitated by our media — is how we shape governance, the culture of our individual organizations, and the culture of the web3 space at large.
Current Sources of Inspiration
The Culture Code:The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle is speaking to my current obsession with how we build teams and communities for impact, innovation, and cohesion. Honestly should be required reading for anyone building DAOs or Tokenized Communities.
I revisted this inaugural episode of Offline with John Favreau from October 2021 featuring millennial Internet godmother Jia Tolentino. Tolentino’s takes on the role of the Internet in shaping culture are timeless. Highly recommend her book Trick Mirror (also required reading for anyone working and building in web3).
It’s true that I’m bringing a printed copy of The Network State as my reading material for my upcoming canoe camping trip. If you have it in you, check out Balaji Srinivasan’s 3.5 hour interview with Tim Ferriss. Disclaimer: Balaji comes with some challenging social views, but his overall thesis is compelling and worth considering.
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