Punk subcultures have used the Internet for the collective good. Now, an NFT project called “CryptoPunk” undermines this legacy

At one point during the recent rise of the two biggest “Web3” champions – cryptocurrency and NFT – a project was hailed as the hottest project on the NFT scene yet began making the rounds. It’s called “CryptoPunk”, which sounds like a clandestine movement that seems to lure the saboteur among us who can participate. But the superficial appeal of CryptoPunk borrows all of its aesthetics from cyberpunk lore but none of its soul.

During the 1990s, the massive physical centering of military spaces became unacceptable to activists, who then turned to organizing online. Then, the early internet primed for a “rising wave of cyber civil disobedience”. Thus, Cyberpunk – and its intersection with ethical hacking – represents the ideology of resistance to state power and inequality using the Internet as its battleground.

1999 issue of Zain Bank Bank Planet This was to say about hacking activity: “If this is cyberwar, information is the weapon and homepages everywhere are the front line…” Most importantly, hackers have never been hacked for personal gain or benefit.

It cuts to the heart of what is punk: subversive, against the grain of soulless, sexy, brave, rebellious corporate capitalist machines. The villain is resistance – and it always was meant to be.

So Cyberpunk has responded to concerns about cyberspace, technology, and the changing role of companies vis-à-vis governments. Works of dystopian fiction – like The Blade Runner, Matrix, And others who explored the implications of occupying the limited space between virtual and real – were the heirs of cyberpunk. They were pessimistic about the technological future, and predicted the collapse of society in the wake of accelerating technology. “Cyberpunk has survived from being a literary genre to a cultural reality,” Roserius wrote. Mondo 2000: Users’ Guide to the New Edge.


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Now, we have CryptoPunk – a term floating in cyberspace that sounds as exciting, radical, and revolutionary as cyberpunk itself. However, it is less thoughtful or subversive than it appears; It is simply the kind of non-fungible limited edition (NFT) token that has been relentlessly hailed: “A status token, a piece of Internet history, and an asset of immeasurable value, CryptoPunks may be the most important NFT project out there.”

The CryptoPunk project is a collection of pixelated images that supposedly have unique attributes “and include things like hats, tubes, necklaces, earrings, eye shots, and more.”

Regardless of the inflated and apparent hollow value of these images, the way CryptoPunk is marketed fits the subcultures it does not represent. “CryptoPunks is a mixture of art, technology, absurdity, and social experiments that resembles the radical coding methods used by artists like Andy Warhol,” a news article states.

However, it is very hard to argue that NFT artwork that goes to millions in cyberspace is the kind of sinister tech future that the original cybernetic imagined. By definition, NFTs are tokens that are meant to be owned exclusively; They are warehouses of particular value that act as economic leverage for people at the top of the financial food chain – whatever goes against the evil spirit.

CryptoPunk talks about how cyberpunk, like most other subcultures, today is reduced to existence as a mere aesthetic that lives on its actual roots. The atmosphere of cyberpunk is the exotic disco charm, metallic sheen and chic elegance that now graces the covers of fashion magazines and couture catalogs. In other words, the legacy of cyberpunk rooted in social justice movements has now been reduced to the commercialization of the aesthetic—something that aligns with rather than disrupts the status quo.

The classic subculture “died” when it became an object of social inspection and nostalgia, and when it became commoditable. Researcher Dylan Clark noted that marketers have long awakened to the fact that subcultures are convenient ways to sell music, cars, clothes, cosmetics, and everything else under the sun.


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Now, jewelry company Tiffany & Co. has revealed. About plans to sell CryptoPunk-inspired diamond pendants for 30 ETH (about $50,000) – exclusively for CryptoPunk NFTs holders. So complete the cyberpunk aesthetic – with a fine jewelry brand chosen to trade real pendants only to those who already “own” CryptoPunk online. As if that weren’t enough, the brand that makes luxury gems with the ‘punk’ name it’s involved in has led to a huge CryptoPunk trading boom – completing punk’s transition into a no-nonsense physical fashion statement rather than a real movement.

So CryptoPunk represents everything cyberpunk was against.

A science fiction writer wrote: “Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, detached, and lonely characters living on the edge of society in a generally dystopian future where everyday life has been affected by rapid technological change, the pervasive data field of computerized information, and the invasive modification of the human body” Lawrence Pearson, in Notes towards Postcyberpunk Statement.

Today, CryptoPunk personalities are those who live in the high glass towers of society, largely shape its community rather than being its victims, and use technology in ways that expand their financial capital, power, and influence.

What made the Internet an exciting medium was that it was fast, connected to people, and provided a collective space. The common denominator behind the Internet’s corruption was its ability to protect solidarity, and to keep resources, knowledge, and common causes under its digital roof. Cryptopunk is the antithesis of the commons, “an overly masculine spirit that guides the masculine logic of technology: the idea that the commons—in this case, the digital commons—exist merely for the sake of owning and storing wealth without any work,” swaddled earlier.

By personalizing the language of punk, CryptoPunk disguises its ideology that asserts the status quo as subversive and even fashionable, and alters the meaning of punk itself. By superimposing what it means to be corrupt with expensive digital goods traded in cryptocurrency, CryptoPunk is blocking many possibilities of freedom in the cyberspace that the punk has opened up.

“…on the one hand, it is a drop-out culture dedicated to realizing the dream of freedom through the right technology. On the other hand, it is a ready market for new gadgets and a training ground for new entrepreneurs who own high-tech games in the market,” wrote researcher Mackenzie Wark “Cyberpunk.. …it was assimilated into the mainstream like every other subculture before it.”

In other words, the cyberpunk is dead. The rest of it is only aesthetic, allowing financial instruments – inherently anti-punk ideology – to be worn for as long as they are sold.


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