Newly minted: Non-fungible tokens and the commodification of fandom

Trevor Zaucha, Colin Agur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) exist today as a component of a broader, ever-evolving financial environment in which questions of value, ownership, and intention are characterized by their ambiguity. This article considers Dapper Labs “NBA Top Shot,” a blockchain-backed website inviting NBA fans to join in “a new era in fandom” wherein they may acquire NFTs of NBA highlights by opening “packs,” which are functionally similar to trading cards. NFTs reflect the pressures of market forces, as well as increased cultural and economic emphasis on marketization, financialization, commodification, and the ubiquity of gambling-like designs and interactions. Furthermore, this study explores tensions present in differing intentions for the NBA Top Shot platform and Discord server, the diffuse nature of user conversations (a nature that disregards topical boundaries), and audience attention toward marketization and investment interests. The commodification of the NBA fan experience illustrates a shared social pressure to more readily think of one’s life, interactions, and consumptive behaviors through the lens of the investor, fostering financial attitudes that normalize instability and encourage risk-taking beyond the scope of a platform where purchase-dependent interactions serve as a source of joy and social experience in a venue representing a perceived electronic gold rush.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNew Media and Society
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.

Keywords

  • Commodification
  • fandom
  • financialization
  • gamble-play
  • marketization
  • non-fungible tokens
  • political economy

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