Crafting a Space for Blockchain [Interview with Giani Fabricio, Part 2]

From Ethereal to Impactful

Aaaaand we’re back with Part 2 of our discussion with Giani Fabricio, Creative Director of last year’s Ethereal NYC conference! Today, we run through the creative motivation and planning behind Consensys’ hometown crypto-conference.

Before hopping into the rest of the conversation, be sure to read up on [Part 1] of our interview!

Creative Crypto: What was your role in Ethereal? What was your mission, your process, and takeaways from the event?

Creative direction and production design were my focus, which basically involved the look and feel of the event, how everything is laid out, the concept behind each area, the flow of things, lighting, A/V equipment, and so forth. As a lead producer however, you end up overseeing things across the board, so I was also deeply involved in things like art curation, content, music programming, sponsorship, and working with the various Dapps or Spokes (Consensys start-ups) in planning their activations. As Gravity, we provided a team of seasoned event-planning and production professionals to handle most aspects of the event, while also mentoring the less experienced Consensys ‘Mesh’ members involved in the process. So as a result, we got involved at many levels, setting up systems and procedures with the long term aim to gradually scale Ethereal to a bigger festival of decentralized technology, music, and art. 

That was very much the mission for this first event, setting up a system to develop that vision and in the process, understand if Gravity and Consensys where a good fit for a longer term working relationship. There were many people involved and a myriad of interests and opinions, but for the most part, I think our visions were very much aligned. I really appreciated a certain idealism that runs within Consensys and the strong focus on the positive impact side of the technology rather than speculation or the price of Ether. There is a strong female presence within the organization, which is rare in the blockchain space and I think that really helped to keep the conversation balanced. It also made the event more inclusive, diverse, and classier than a lot of other crypto-related conferences out there. There was a good amount of scrutiny in the choice of projects that would be promoted at the event, with of course preference for Consensys spokes. But I’ve also seen potential sponsors turned down for not being aligned with the vision, despite the fact that the money they were offering was substantial and would have certainly helped.

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I also appreciated a certain self-critical vein that runs within the organization. This perhaps wasn’t as apparent in the keynotes or talks, but it certainly was with the art. I was part of the art curation process and was impressed by the depth of thought and scrutiny applied by the team there. Kudos to Saraswathi Subbaraman & Will King at Consensys, Ruth Catlow of Furtherfields, and Sam Hart of Avant who were all part of the process. Out of the 78 applications we received, the 10 projects chosen all offered some thought-provoking and critical insight on the space. No hype, no evangelism. I also appreciated that non-Ethereum based projects were also chosen. 

It also made it clear that though decentralization is most likely a better system to run certain types of organizations, it still has a long way to go before it can actually be as effective as centralized models. That was certainly one of the takeaways from the experience, which ended up requiring far more energy and commitment than one would expect from an event of this size. But we all got some valuable lessons out of it, some great bonds were formed, and I was pleased to see how well received it was in all the reviews. One of them said “It felt like an experience, like a single executed vision. Every pixel was in place; it was calm, yet energized. Somebody at Consensys put their heart into designing it.” That was great to read, and it was very true. A bunch of us, both at Consensys and outside of it, certainly put our heart and soul into the event. 

How do you see the role of these types of events developing over time? What value do you think comes from these activities?

I think these events play a crucial role in the development of the technology and the culture around it. They help gather key players and thought leaders in the space and help shape the conversation which guides how the technology is developed. In every industry there are all sorts of personalities that play roles in shaping its future. Some are more technically minded, some more business-driven, others are more concerned with the ethics and the wider implications of the technology on society. They all bring important contributions to the culture and we certainly need them to be talking with one another.

This technology in particular necessitates that sort of wide ranging discourse. At the moment what we see is a lot of young and enthusiastic developers and entrepreneurs building systems that promise to disrupt pretty much every industry out there. Industries that in many cases, they don’t have a deep understanding of. So its important to have places where experts of those fields can come and learn about the technology, sharing their insight into those specific sectors with those building tools to revolutionize them. I hope to see more of that at these kind of events. Less preaching to the choir, more critical and challenging debates between blockchain developers and industry leaders. 

I think these events can also serve as an educational tool for the wider public. The blockchain paradigm is not really that complicated, a lot of people just assume it is, and scare away at the sight of a white paper. But actually its a pretty simple concept, it just requires a certain mental shift, a new way to look at things. Once that happens, it all pretty much makes sense. Unfortunately most people just don’t have the available bandwidth to dwell into the research on their own at home. At these events however, people are engaged and ready to pay attention so it’s a great opportunity to pass on the message. 

At Ethereal, we were working towards optimizing that process creatively. Teaming up creatives with technologists and supporting Dapps / Spokes to present their systems in a way that was not just another powerpoint presentation or demo.

The aim was to build experiences that allow people to get a tangible feel of what that a particular technology is. Through having a direct and possibly fun experience, people are more likely to have that mental shift and ‘get it’.

What does the blockchain future have in store for you? 

Not sure what it has in store for me, but I know what I have in mind for it – that it gets here fast…we need it pretty badly. Just look at that recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 12 years, that’s all we have left to turn things around. We have all of the scientific, economic, and technological solutions to meet those goals. The only thing that is required is the political will to deploy them, the one thing we do not have. Our system of governance is in gridlock, we are unable to move forward in any particular direction. It’s as if we are all sitting on the Titanic, very much agreeing that there is a massive f-ing iceberg up ahead, but the control room is locked and we cannot steer the ship. We need to take back control of the process by which as a society we come to consensus about a set of data and make quick decisive action towards the agreed path forward. I believe some of the ideas being tested in the blockchain space are possibly our only hope to get there within the necessary timescale. Decentralization of power, removing self-serving middlemen, radical truth & transparency, idea meritocracy, liquid democracy, DAOs, ICOs, and token-based crypto economic incentive systems are all needed.

My immediate plans all revolve around trying to facilitate the development of those ideas by helping people clearly visualize them through media, art, and events. Between Coachella and Panorama, we have formed a great team to deploy 360 immersive projection domes and produce the content to be displayed in them. We have some creatives working towards scripts for 360-media aimed at aiding the visualization of some of the concepts I just described. Anyone reading this who is interested to join that effort feel free to get in touch. We need more writers, producers, directors, animators, and of course tokens to reward them.

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I would also love to offer the community fun and inspiring places to gather, share ideas, collaborate, and play. Spaces where we can all collectively shape the vision for the decentralized future. Ethereal does that well for the Consensys and Ethereum communities. The decentralization movement is however, a much wider ecosystem of both technologies and ideologies which also needs a place to gather. So together with friends in both the US and Europe, I’m working towards a new concept of a blockchain agnostic summit on decentralized technologies and their role in the future of governance and solving global issues like climate change. The idea is to create an environment where the blockchain space can come together with other industries and disciplines that will play a role in shaping the decentralized future. Not a place to promote a particular system or product but rather, a place to share and debate ideas, ask difficult questions, and lead the conversation that shapes how the technology is developed and utilized.

I also find myself spending a lot of time thinking about how to structure the governance systems of these projects. Not just make them be about the new paradigm, but also walk the walk as we go along. I’ve always been a big fan of systems thinking and organizational structures. I love books like “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederick Laloux and “Principles” by Ray Dalio who have proven the power of radical transparency and idea meritocracy by building the most successful hedge-fund on the planet based on such principles. Here is a great TED talk on that. 

Ultimately, that is what the blockchain space is all about for me, a tool that allows us to re-imagine how we can govern ourselves more effectively as either small communities or worldwide networks. We need the type of imaginative work to put more efforts towards considering how ridiculous and scary governance looks like at the moment. It’s a farce and we all know it. We need to unlock the control room and steer the ship. If through these projects I can somehow contribute something towards that goal, then I would be a very happy kid on the block.  


Photos provided by Giani Fabricio and Consensys, and cover image by Zsolt Vidak. For more on the event, check out our interview with the Ethereal coordinators [here].

Interview Part 1: Link

Name: Giani Fabricio
Vimeohttps://vimeo.com/ultimaproductions
LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/gfabricio/

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