Mr. Clayton W. Lord
2022 Trends: Digital Goes Mainstream
Mr. Clayton W. Lord
This is one in a series of blogs about trends that will impact the arts in 2022 and going forward. Links to the introduction and full series appear at the end of this post.
It was going to happen eventually, but the pandemic drove digital engagement of one type or another into almost every aspect of life. As we progress forward, how will that engagement make things better—and how might it make things worse?
NFTs = $$$
In 2021, we said that the virtual visual art market was on the rise. Boy, did that come true fast—non-fungible tokens (digital pieces of art tied to blockchain technology that ostensibly makes them unique objects) were a $41 billion market in 2021—and are projected to be an $80 billion market by 2025.
Into the Metaverse
In the last 12 months, the concept of a “metaverse”—a world entirely housed inside virtual reality—went from science fiction to nascent reality. Companies are buying digital real estate, preparing digital fashion, developing digital currency and exchanges, holding meetings with staff around digital conference tables, and more.
Access Pros and Cons
Technological innovations, particularly in the digital space, could offer more, better, and higher quality access to people with disabilities, though that is not yet a given. Digital has (or has the potential to) knocked down, or at least dinged, other systemic inequities related to everything from geographic distribution to family planning—and there are some signs that designers in the space are prioritizing accessibility in important ways. At the same time, a world going digital only works if you can afford to go digital—and while some are working to address the digital divide, the distance between those who can access high speed quality internet and those who can’t continues to grow.
Your Turn to Virtually Learn
The growth of virtual reality/digital learning environments may substantially change the way we educate future generations—with huge possibilities for immersive, transformative educational experiences … if everyone is able to take part. Virtual reality-based training can drastically improve the confidence of the learner, and also allows for different types of learning—which is good since 90% of Gen Z believe that real world experience trumps education in the classroom, and over 2-in-3 have a low opinion of a college education and are considering taking alternative paths.
How will these trends impact the arts?
There is so much promise and peril for the arts sector and artists when it comes to the digital space, cryptocurrency, and the metaverse. The rules of much of this space are still being written, so one argument goes that it may end up being a more egalitarian and open space in which entrepreneurial creatives of all stripes can control more of their own destiny. On the other hand, some of the items listed above—from accessibility issues to repeating patterns of colonization of the space by the same monied, privileged few who have been able to colonize elsewhere—have people concerned. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle, but whatever the outcome, these formerly sci-fi concepts have solidly moved into the realm of reality and will take up increasing brain space (and revenue) for both artists and arts organizations in the coming years.