The internet has not always been known to be the friendliest place for marginalized and underrepresented voices. However, the dawn of Web3 — driven by its underlying foundation of creating impactful, purposeful online spaces from the ground up — offers a clean slate to remedy mistakes of Web2, in particular the failure of existing social media platforms to protect those who are marginalized from animus behavior in the pixelated world.
As we evolve into the next iteration of the internet, it is imperative to include diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the conversation. In 2022, we see a number of communities stepping up their DEI game to creating safe spaces for people of different backgrounds to collaborate, and reshaping our digital landscape through meaningful progress. Here we've picked out some noteworthy initiatives that address issues of diversity and representation from the past year.
Founded by member of feminist protest and performance art group Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikova, alongside Web3 veterans John Caldwell and Rebecca Lamis, UnicornDAO launched in March 2022 as a decentralized autonomous organization that invests in minority and marginalized artists. Guided by a mission that includes “subverting crypto bro culture”, “create non-cringe NFT cultural moments”, and “give birth to a queer utopia in the Metaverse.” UnicornDAO solely invests in female, non-binary, and LGBTQ+ artists in Web3, and provides the necessary financial tools, education, and resources to support and empower them.
Prominent members of the DAO include musicians Sia and Grimes, the latter of which donated her music video for New Gods to the collection. Other members include digital artist Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, NFT enthusiast Gary Vaynerchuk, with investment from NFT collections World of Women and Moonbirds, crypto trading platform MoonPay, blockchain network Polygon and Yuga Labs, the creators behind the coveted Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. Thus far, UnicornDAO has purchased US$1.4 million worth of works from Web3 artists.
Since its sold-out debut in July 2021, the community of the popular World of Women (WoW) NFT collection has always been vocal in its advocacy for representation, inclusivity, and equal opportunities for women.
And their efforts extend well beyond the Web3 space. In October 2022, following the case of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who was detained and subsequently died during custody Iran’s Morality Police, WoW launched an auction on the NFT platform Superrare, selling a digital illustration by artist r0yart, which featured a woman with streams of blood flowing from her eyes and torso.
The work was sold for 4 ETH (US$5,203 at the time of auction), and all proceeds, plus a further US$20,000 offered by the WoW team, went to United For Iran, a non-profit organization that aims to empower the voices of women and girls in Iran by means of technology and education. Apart from raising funds, WoW also released a series of new PFPs adorned with slogans that resonated with the protests in Iran.
“CryptoVenus” is a collection of 10,000 hand-painted PFPs inspired by Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s iconic artwork, The Birth of Venus (ca.1484–1486). The was the genesis NFT collection of NYC-based artist Erica Reiling, who hand painted 103 “Venuses” of different physical attributes during art therapy sessions in the thick of the pandemic in 2020.
“I started to think about what it could look like if the Goddess of Love and Femininity was represented with more Asian, African, or Middle Eastern features, and felt it would be beautiful to recreate Botticelli’s masterpiece in a way that nearly every woman could see herself in the image of the goddess as she experiences her own rebirth of self,” Reiling told Artazine in a recent interview.
The road map of CryptoVenus also has philanthropy in mind. The platforms pledges 10 percent of profits to building and sustaining The Venus Fund, which provides crypto and DeFi mentorship and education to aspiring artists and entrepreneurs; and another 2.5 percent of profits to raising money for child welfare, schools and homeless youth.
In February 2022 during Black History Month, Meta launched their very own Metaverse Culture Series — a collection of panels and communities in virtual reality, with an overarching goal to “provide an accessible entry point into the future of technology for historically excluded, diverse communities.” They had completed a few installments throughout the year, which featured Black, female, Muslim, and queer creators in turn.
Their latest and final chapter, Tercera Cultura, highlights the Latinx experience within a virtual world called Nuevo Norte and features the participation of multi hyphenate queer, disability and Latinx activist, Jillian Mercado. The vibrant world of Nuevo Norte is a virtual space within the metaverse created by digital artist COVL, or D'ana Nuñez, that pays homage to her Puerto Rican roots, complete with features such as a discoteca (dance club) and a cafecito (cafe) for virtual gatherings.
Nuevo Norte also made its debut in the physical art world at Art Basel Miami, where it was translated as a mix-reality installation featuring an augmented reality (AR) mural at the Meta House.
ARTXV, the world’s first NFT collective supporting the representation of neurodiversity and disability in art, released its first drop, “The Power of Neurodiversity”, in July 2022. The ‘XV’ in the name ARTXV points to the fact that around 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, which equates to over a billion people and is the reason why the collective refers to them as “the largest minority in the world.”
Founded in London by two British-Iranian sisters, Ava and Tara Halvai — the former a computer science student, and the latter an artist who is autistic and non-verbal — ARTXV started out as an Instagram account to bring visibility to Tara’s art, and has now grown to represent 17 neurodiverse artists with autism, ADHD, or bipolarism etc. By leveraging the use of blockchain technology, the platform aims to create space for these underrepresented artists who would otherwise find it difficult to showcase and sell their art in the traditionally homogenous art world.