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Opinion: Phunkism, or flipping NFTs for a good cause

V3Phunks minted to raise ETH for mental health awareness, in a subtle shift in the web3 metaverse, which puts personal care for people over profit and a culture where ethics can sometimes take a backseat.

Using smart contracts and messaging promoting mental health, the V3Phunks project, a derivative of the CryptoPhunks NFT project (a “punk” version of CryptoPunks), raised 50 ETH (over $66,000), in the midst of a bear market, and gave it all directly to MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), a non-profit based in California that advocates for the use of psychedelics in healing and mental health improvement. 


In the NFT ecosystem, it’s become common for large projects to “rug,” or become abandoned projects soon after mint, when the founders collect the money from minting and then no longer maintain the project. This has led to a subjective mood in the space that NFTs are largely used for personal gain and not for brand identity.


A project like Phunks v3 is an attempt to alter that perception. 


To do this in the bear market required a good sense of team collaboration across remote individuals, and was a good test of the decentralized nature of an emerging web3, which relies on people working together, not necessarily as part of a team or a corporation. Using social media and Discord groups, the group sold out the project in a matter of hours. 


In recent years, it’s difficult to think about non-fungible tokens without picturing some of the degenerate trading activity and the flipping of profile-picture collections for profit and gain. One result of this kind of behavior is that conversations about art often come second.


The “degen” culture – the incessant buying and reselling of projects to earn a profit, without any regard to consequences – has created a trend where prominent projects in the NFT space “rug,” which means they are created just to seek profit from buyers. Once the minting of a project happens, the team disappears and takes the money. Or, once things become too difficult for the founding team, as was the case with Zagabond, the team leaves the project to try another strategy. 

This culture tends to shy away from all sorts of the common traits of decency we might show in typical business cultures, like following law and sticking to regulation. And they definitely don’t take part in many conversations about mental health, or ways that members of the community can help each other overcome personal struggles or our collective apprehensions about our future. One team whose members are based all around the world decided to take this to heart and attempt to change this narrative during the summer. 

Over a couple of days, Jason Cline, an independent media agency director, organized a group of CryptoPhunk holders (the original “hand-flipped” CryptoPunk parody collection), and asked them to come up with a version of Phunks that would spread an optimistic message. 

When the group of artists, designers, entrepreneurs and developers launched V3Phunks in late August 2022, they were doing more than recycling the famous CryptoPhunks NFT collection with a seafoam-green background. They were sending a positive message - from the design of the background radiating calming, tranquil energy, using a color that suggests the hues of the ocean – to quietly beginning work on a platform that will enable any artist holding a V3Phunk to mint tokens whose proceeds go directly to charity. 

V3Phunks organizer Cline said: “Inspiring people to create and build is what I’m passionate about, and what better way to do that than by creating a new Phunk project with a low entry where all proceeds go to support mental health awareness?”


The raised donation was done through a smart contract developed by a CryptoPhunk holder who goes by OG Kenobi. His efforts to create the contract came from noticing that there were people who were interested in the no-censorship and positivity-focused culture of CryptoPhunks holders, but were kept back by the floor price – which was around 0.5 ETH at the time. 


OG Kenobi said: “It was becoming more apparent that people wanted to join the CryptoPhunks community, but shied away from the high floor price of the collection that started the conversation around IP rights and CC0 [a version of creative commons that relinquishes all forms of copyright], CryptoPhunksV2.”


“I saw this as an opportunity to create a new collection, V3Phunks, to allow a new generation of CryptoPhunks to experience this amazing community, to experience what ‘Phunkism’ is all about. It was important that the mint price was low and that tokenIds were minted in random order to provide an equitable experience to all who participated. Donating 100% of the proceeds to was simply the icing on the cake.”


To ensure that there would be no doubts about the future use of the money, the donation to MAPS was hard coded into the contract. After all the proceeds were distributed to MAPS, the contract was renounced with 0% royalties so that the entire NFT ecosystem could see transparently that there was no self-interest involved in the project – there is no personal incentive to maintain a floor price or to promote trading of the Phunks going forward.


As is typical in crypto bear markets, toxic extremism of views on social media can disguise what's most important in the world of NFTs – releasing IP and creating an enabling space to do what you want with your creative energy. And to positively impact people, rather than tear them down. The move to release V3Phunks is just one attempt to ensure the NFT ecosystem does not get defined by degenerate financial greed or pseudonymous trolling. 


Phunkism Culture: Educating on NFTs

Since late 2021, when the original CryptoPhunks contract spawned a rapscallion-like community – which took over a contract after its original creator, ZAGABOND (now best known for Azuki) dropped out of the project. Many Phunks-holders have promulgated a way of life for the NFT ecosystem they call “Phunkism.”

“Phunkism” culture, which can mean different things to different people, generally speaks to promoting education around blockchain technology and social movements, as well as sponsoring and supporting artists, developers and builders, in different ways, to build solutions for the Internet and for society. It’s a counter-narrative to the kind of thinking that focuses only on wealth or only on one’s individual profit. 

While the charity-focused V3Phunks collection is one answer to refocus the (degenerate gambling) narrative of the NFT ecosystem, a designer who goes by the name Dovetail and developer Middlemarch (aka former CEO Tom Lehman) are taking another approach. 

Dove and Lehman are working to archive the art history of the entire CryptoPunk movement, the legendary NFT series that was the original inspiration for the satirical (at that time) CryptoPhunks. Their mission is to turn more attention on artists exploring the NFT space, giving them support and providing context to elaborate on existing work and, ultimately, find new ground in philosophy, art and literature. 

The Phuture is Now

When we zoom out, these “Phunkism” projects align with the mindset of many of the original blockchain art explorers, who, from 2014, wanted to use NFTs to help bring more authority and claim of ownership on digital art. The NFT space has exploded since then, with art often taking a backseat to cash and the project objectives often being as unpredictable as the floor prices, with rug projects where the founders leave earning millions of dollars. 

It remains to be seen what will happen to NFTs over the next few years. As more and more big players turn their attention to Web3, and governments begin to take the crypto space seriously, we face more questions than answers. 

Will NFTs end up being dominated by IP-focused brands using art and creativity to build businesses in the Metaverse? Will the NFT market be the domain of independent artists who use their creativity to expand society’s consciousness? Will the traditional art world galleries and collectors take over? Or will the NFT world end up as something else entirely? Something (hopefully amazing and wonderful) we can’t yet envision?

Likely, it’s a bit of everything – ideally with a side of Phunkism.