Jordan Gray has always lived at the intersection of technology and art. His father is an electrical engineer and amateur photographer complete with home darkroom, and both his parents were interested in art. As a result, he was exposed to different genres and encouraged to play around with them. In his teens, he wrote his college thesis ahead of time so that he could take college courses in journalism while still in high school.
“I loved story telling in all its media – I began online blogging while a student too before it became a thing,” he says.
Gray also believes there is a lot of value in moving between disciplines because they inform each other.
“Without the arts and the humanities, technology is nothing. Technology is just a tool and what is interesting is the human needs it serves.”
Gray is also concerned with explaining difficult technical platforms as simply as possible.
“To me blockchain is just a distributed ledger – it’s a way of keeping track of things owned by people. And that is the real beauty of blockchain – the ownership of the data is by the people and for the people.
“Also, when people contribute to the network and own the data, that sets up a very different dynamic. Companies are no longer in charge and that puts power back in the hands of the people.”
People working and acting in the blockchain, cryptocurrency, Web3 space are very familiar with the importance of community. Jordan is no different and has run an art and tech non-profit community for the past 11 years called Codame.
“Codame is all about tech and art. We do nightlife events. We have interactive installations and cool art. We help artists sell their art. We do workshops where we teach artists that technology is just another brush or tool in their armoury.”
All was going swimmingly when Covid hit and Gray knew he had to pivot to keep on going.
“We couldn’t do real live events to support our artists, so we got into NFTs instead. And as a result, our artists sold more NFTs than they sold Art pieces in previous years.”
Gray drops in at that stage that he opted for the NEAR blockchain for its carbon neutral position which was also important to the artists in Codame. The ability to split royalties automatically using smart contracts was also a boon.
“Running a festival can involve a lot of remitting payments to different participants – the admin can be a real headache. By using NFTs not only did we increase sales, we also totally eliminated the drudgery of payment logistics.”
Another really crucial part of the community aspect to Web3 are DAOs or Decentralised Autonomous Organisations.
“I like to break DAOs to their constituent parts,” says Gray. “Decentralised can mean the people and work are geographically dispersed. There is not one person at the top telling everyone what to do – the work is collaborative or like a co-op.”
When it comes to the autonomous portion, this is akin to the royalty split mentioned before at Codame.
“Even decision making can be automated thereby eliminating boring or repetitive tasks. And unlike companies like Uber or Lift where automation is key to the success of the company, the rewards are spread evenly amongst the participants.”
Gray was also very happy working on the NEAR platform.
“It was easy to use, you get a name on your wallet not just a number and ordinary folk can get involved and make their own DAOs – big or small.”
Real world examples of DAOs include the much-publicised ConstitutionDAO set up to purchase a surviving copy of the US Constitution from Sotheby’s. 17,437 individuals came together in an organic Web3 way and raised $47million but it was pipped to the post by billionaire Hedge fund manger Ken Griffith.
Four outcomes stand out. The DAO went from a meme to a project in under a week. It raised the money in 72 hours. When it did not succeed in buying the constitution, conducting refunds proved problematic as the high gas fees on Ethereum would have wiped out the value of many of the small donations. The experiment spawned another meme coin $PEOPLE which as of February 2022 is listed at #168 with a marketcap of $275million.
“If the DAO had been on NEAR, where gas fees are low, the refunds would have worked out,” suggests Gray.
Gray again points to software being the tool of the community.
“You can meet people who share your values, you can vote on things so you can govern together, you can make decisions together and ultimately if you have a treasury you can agree on how to spend the funds. And the funds could be to pay devs to maintain or enhance your DAO or simply on other shared visions like donating to a festival or disaster location. It’s all governed in the DAO and shared by people with similar visions.”