Context

This experiment

For the last several weeks, Austin Robey (Ampled Co-founder) and Nicole d’Avis (Ampled Community Member + Board Member) have been participating in the Seed Club as part of the Ampled team on the development of this proposal. Seed Club is an accelerator and active-learning cohort which helps creators and communities explore the launch and strategy of a social or community token. As a result of our research and explorations into crypto, we’ve crafted a proposal which we believe will bring benefit to the Ampled community.

Ampled has always been experimental. As a group, we've rethought ownership structures of creator platforms, and now we are experimenting in ways to redefine our relationship with labor, creative production, and each other.

Definition of terms

Community Token:

A "community token" is a blockchain validated token that is backed by the reputation of a brand or community. Instead of representing legal equity, or governance power, a community token for a cooperative can represent a piece of its intangible value like its community, brand, and reputation. In the case of Ampled, the $AMPLED community token is a representation of labor and community engagement.

Ideological Framework

It's understandable that many of us in the Ampled community have an aversion to anything crypto-related. It has a bad reputation - and for good reason. The space can seem dominated by right-wing techno-libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and insider bro culture. Plus, all we hear in the news is about meme coins, trading speculative assets, and scams. These criticisms are fair! In my personal opinion, the popular perception of crypto at-large seems antithetical to the spirit of a musicians co-op.

However, that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the technology.

Blockchain-based technology, like the internet, isn’t inherently capitalist. However, it may appear that way because they have both been dominated by capitalist institutions, with little clear alternatives or opposition. This presents an opportunity for us.

One thing is for sure. Crypto is not going away. Today, we can work to understand this tech, and be early to help shape it, or be subjected to it and have to deal with it later.

I believe that earnest explorations of this technology (firmly within a solidarity economics framework) can help us create entirely new relationships towards both our cultural production and to each other. And by learning together, we can begin to fight back.

The Web 3.0 Shift

The web is going through a major shift right now. This is often categorized as a transition from “Web 2.0” to “Web 3.0”. We want to be ready and help shape it. Many of the themes are already familiar to Ampled.

Web 2.0

Web 3.0

Centralized, top down

Decentralized, bottom up

Investor ownership

Community ownership

Data on corporate servers

Data on public computer

Value extracted from community

Value captured by community

Rent-seeking platforms

Public protocols

Platforms own and distribute media

Artists own and distribute media

Look closely at some crypto-enabled projects, and you’ll see a lot to be encouraged by. Decentralized apps are being collectively governed (much like co-ops). There are inventive experiments in universal basic income and funding public goods. Groups like Songcamp are completely redefining the modern day conception of a record label to shift power to the artists. And Web 3.0 tech allows for new ways for artists to get paid: automated payment splits, streaming micropayments, and ownership of platforms.

There are a few interesting ways in which Ampled could leverage Web 3.0 technology too. The experimental crowdfund in this post is an example. Also, I’ve written about the potential opportunity for how “community tokens” can benefit cooperatives. Memberships within Ampled could even extend beyond our platform -- to create unique experiences and access across the web and beyond into real world spaces.

The Bigger Picture

Instead of asking how we can manipulate human financial behavior to serve existing forms of money, we ask: What sorts of money will encourage the human behaviors we admire and long to practice? What sorts of money systems will encourage trust, reenergize local commerce, favor peer-to-peer value exchange, and transcend the [capitalist] growth requirement?

from Throwing Rocks At The Google Bus by Douglas Rushkoff

The opportunity here is that this proposal can be an important experiment in the development of new ways of building companies and organizing ourselves as laborers and cultural producers. There really aren't many existing precedents to draw from for an idea like this, but layering on a community token on top of a cooperative seems like an idea worth testing.

If it works, it could become a roadmap that helps more cooperatives bootstrap themselves, and create a more equitable economy. And possibly, be a suggestive way for us to reorient our relationship towards a new digital economy -- one where markets serve individuals, rather than individuals serving markets.