Mar 15, 2022 - News

NFTs dominate Austin's SXSW

Doodles, an NFT company, hosted its own activation at East Cesar Chavez and Trinity Street for SXSW.
Doodles, an NFT company, hosted its own activation at East Cesar Chavez and Trinity Street for SXSW. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

South by Southwest is in full effect, and there's no shortage of NFT talk.

State of play: Cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are buzzy, and if you're anywhere near downtown this week, you've probably stumbled across a poster, popped into a brand activation on tokens or overheard a festival-goer chatting about them.

Catch up quick: NFTs are unique digital assets — often works of art, game characters and other creative products — that are recorded on a blockchain, or persistent digital ledger. Think of them as digital collectibles, writes Axios' Peter Allen Clark.

  • A recent study by NonFungible.com and L'Atelier BNP Paribas found that NFT sales reached $17.7 billion in 2021, up from $82.5 million in 2020.
  • But as the number of buyers and sellers increased dramatically, the figure did not grow as much as sales totals, which may reflect criticism that NFTs are a speculative bubble, or a frenzied market that will stabilize overtime.

Driving the news: We counted more than two dozen NFT events on the SXSW schedule, including meetups, workshops, panels, galleries and more.

Perhaps one of the most popular installations was from the company Doodles, which offered a colorful activation on the corner of East Cesar Chavez and Trinity Street, drawing a line that stretched around the building for much of the weekend.

What they're saying: Evan Keast, co-founder of Doodles, said recent headlines on NFTs tend to be distracting and only focus on the mining and selling of the digital asset.

  • "[The headlines are] not really about the underlying technology, the community and what they mean for the future of tech," Keast told Axios.

Roughly 2,400 people passed through the Doodles activation Sunday, and since it opened Friday, Keast estimated that about 500 are "Doodle holders," or owners of a Doodles NFT.

  • Doodle holders swipe their phone around the room, making their own virtual NFT appear in real life — on a rocket ship, a flower or a coffee cup.
  • And Keast is hopeful that the SXSW installation will teach attendees and the public that NFTs aren't as exclusive as they appear. Meanwhile, the Marcel.Art XR showcase offered an NFT Gallery at the Fairmont, featuring the work of 64 emerging artists.
  • Attendees move through two rooms, where art is projected onto the walls.
  • Moving images are futuristic, featuring colorful displays and QR codes for each project. The QR codes direct viewers to the Marcel app and give them the option to purchase the NFT.
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