A powerful subculture is being bred from within the crypto community that will impact wealth, community and identity by creating an alternative to traditional financial systems and presenting a new social structure for like-minded individuals, writes base layer, a cultural trend research organisation.

Read the full research paper 'Crypto Culture Decoded' here.

When new technology is discovered, its purpose tends to be misunderstood. We only need to look at the journey of music streaming, from the experimental days of Napster and its evolution to Spotify, or social networking, from the scrappy pages of MySpace to the positions that Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn occupy in modern life today.

It takes at least a decade for the dust to settle. Meanwhile, optimism at its peak will turn into hype and sceptics will focus on the weak use cases to prove their point that the tech is useless. There will be fear, doubt and uncertainty alongside experimentation and excitement for the emerging technology.

We believe this describes the current status of crypto and blockchain technology, holistically referred to as Web3.

For now, crypto and its associated values, ethics and social signalling may seem to be limited to a specific segment of the world population, and far from mainstream adoption.

However, the subculture bred from the crypto community should not be ignored because it reflects the attitudes and behaviours of a growing class of young millennials and late Gen Z across the world. Most importantly, crypto represents their source of generational wealth.

Beneath calls to dismiss crypto as a Ponzi scam, a money laundering tool or an environmental evil, there undeniably exists a very real and powerful subculture bred from within the crypto community, with the potential to drive a shift in future urban lifestyles and consumption patterns – not unlike the emergence of streetwear and urban culture rooted in the countercultures of the 1980s and 1990s.

Like street culture, crypto represents anti-establishment and liberation in:

  • Capital & Wealth – by creating an alternative to traditional financial systems that are controlled by governments, allowing every person in the world with internet access to transact on shared networks.
  • Community & Identity – by presenting a new social structure for like-minded individuals to organise themselves around capital and digital asset ownership, unconstrained by geographic borders. Crypto allows for individuals to literally put their chips down and have skin in the game in their convictions.
  • Creativity & Consumption – by enabling each individual with the ability to create, own and monetise digital assets autonomously, and also build future utility into them through smart contracts. This departs from the economics of Web 2.0 where creators are subject to the management and control of tech monopolies.

However, unlike the rise of Web 2.0 companies to dominate modern internet culture, the proliferation of Web3 and of crypto culture is not likely to manifest in such a clear linear pattern.

Keeping in mind that most of the tech development in Web3 is happening in an open source fashion and that user feedback happens in public and almost real time, it is wise to anticipate volatility, controversy and hype cycles before a clearer landscape for crypto adoption settles in.

Our position is that brands should neither act too fast in reactionary impulse to the hype, nor sit on the sidelines while dismissing crypto and hoping it would fade away.

The smarter course of action is to seek – as accurately as possible – an objective understanding of the Web3 landscape. This is, however, not a one-time initiative. The Web3 space is chaotic, ever-evolving and very much in its nascent stages.

In order to better understand how their brands can fit within the cultural narratives and evolving technologies in Web3, businesses seeking to enter this space would benefit from proper due diligence and constantly updated research.

To bridge the gap in understanding Web3 as a cultural movement, base layer’s report ‘Crypto Culture Decoded’ presents insights and observations based on four months undercover as an active, anonymous participant of the crypto community. It provides an overview of the social values and norms that have emerged around blockchain and crypto, as well as a guide into the experiences of those who are part of these communities.

Most importantly, it surfaces nine themes that represent today’s crypto culture: