Digital rights perspective on Realms of Ruin

Posted October 21, 2021, 1:04 AM

The following quote can be attributed to Lia Holland (she/they), Campaigns & Communications Director at Fight for the Future:

“This week, a handful of celebrated authors said “there may be a better way” and Publishing Twitter burned the witch. What these authors proposed—to build a digital community where they can engage and create directly with their fans—is already commonplace in other creative mediums, like music and visual art.

There seems to be a vitriolic misconception among some in publishing that Web3, the next generation of the internet, is harmful and dangerous—that it is ‘woke’ to cling to the current model of how authors engage with fans.

That misconception is deeply harmful for marginalized creators and vulnerable fans, especially teens.

Surveillance capitalist social media like Instagram are today’s accepted way for teens to engage with the authors and books they love. Unfortunately, Web2 platforms like Instagram severely harm the mental health of teens because it is profitable to do so. Thus, in order to participate in fandom, many teens must also subject themselves to manipulative algorithms that prey on and amplify their insecurities.

Authors, in turn, are feeding this same abusive social media system—one that is undermining our democracy, sparking genocides, and dumping untold sums of money on legislators to cement Big Tech’s monopoly. Meanwhile, a shift in Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook’s algorithms could plunge an author with a healthy community into shadowban purgatory.

It is widely agreed that traditional publishing’s equity and inclusion efforts for marginalized writers are falling short. In other creative & small business sectors, Web3 technologies are being used by these very same marginalized communities to collaborate on alternative systems to build better opportunities. Given that nearly one out of every four US residents is either unbanked or underbanked, and that those with less access to traditional financial institutions are overwhelmingly low income, young, mostly black and hispanic people, the need for alternatives that support marginalized folks in making their livelihoods as independent creators is obvious.

Realms of Ruin also explained on their now-removed website that they intended to run their project on Solana, a green cryptocurrency with negligible energy usage. Despite this fact, disinformation on the energy consumption of the project was one of the main criticisms that was used to fan the flames of outrage.

Finally, Realms of Ruin proposed to be a platform that radically empowered and rewarded fandom—centering the oft-quoted maxim that a book recommended by a friend is the most likely to be purchased. For loving a story so much they put time, energy, and heart into participating in and promoting it, fans would have been elevated by authors not only with their gratitude, but with the shared ownership & new-wave fan club projects that blockchain technologies are enabling in music projects from Portugal. The Man to Kings of Leon to Holly Herndon to The Song That Owns Itself.

Just like at the dawn of Web 2.0, publishing is standing at a dangerous precipice. If authors are cancelled for attempting to participate in the next generation of the internet, the next Amazon is going to eat publishing’s lunch again. The systemic inequities and consolidation of opportunity in the industry will only be perpetuated.”