33. NFT? NON-FUNGIBLE TOKEN, AMIRITE?
The First 5000 Days
Having just got to grips with the concept and operation of 'blockchain' and 'cryptocurrencies' at the beginning of 2021 - I know because after translating a paper on the subject and editing a further couple of articles, if I ever come across blockchain or bitcoin, I won't have to think 'what is that again?' - I happened to read a recent article in the Guardian (NFTs market hits $22bn as craze turns digital images into assets | Cryptocurrencies | The Guardian) that made me realise that I'm playing catch-up not only with technology but also with language. The rapidly changing world with which we engage is constantly being buffeted by the equally rapid development of technology and the language that describes it. So now I know what NFTs are, along with metaverse. Or, at least, I won't have a puzzled look on my face if I come across these terms in future.
The First 500 Days
To explain briefly: an NFT, or non-fungible token, confers ownership of a unique digital item - whether a piece of virtual art by Damien Hirst or a jacket to be worn in the metaverse (I'll come back to this) - upon someone, even if that item can be easily copied. Ownership is recorded on a digital, decentralised ledger known as a blockchain (familiar concept 😉). The market for NFTs in 2021 hit $22 billion as the craze for collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and Matrix avatars (at least that's familiar, even if it is largely due to the movie of the same name) turned digital images into major investment assets. Even John Lennon's eldest son Julian is getting in on it: he intends to sell several pieces of Beatles history as NFTs while keeping the physical items (The Beatles and John Lennon memorabilia to be sold as NFTs | BBC News). The most valuable NFT sale in 2021 was The First 5000 Days, a digital collage by Beeple, the name used by the American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, that was auctioned for $69.3 million, making it one of the most valuable pieces of art ever sold by a living artist.
Context, context, context
The point I am making is that as a creative, professional language specialist whose field of play is technology and innovation, I (and my colleagues) need to be aware of and familiar with such trends and the language used to describe them. Such as the shared virtual 3D world, or worlds, of metaverse that are interactive, immersive and collaborative. Of course, while one cannot be expected to know everything, it is important to be aware of the knowledge 'holes' and the need to fill them. It also underlines the essence of one of the central pillars of the CPLS philosophy, which is that "everything starts with knowing the client's business. It is the key to anticipating their needs, to creating solutions and opportunities they may not find on their own." In other words, context. Familiarisation with the innovations that are taking place and the language that is used or being created to describe them. How can I generate copy, do an edit or make a translation if I am not familiar with the context in which the text 'lives'?
Tracking the trends
This past year has thrown up many new words to add to our vocabulary, whether corona-related, urban or technological. To cite just a few that spring to mind from these three domains: long Covid and super-spreader, TBH and amirite, bit rot and zero-day. Long Covid is a condition which is marked by the presence of symptoms (such as fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, headache or brain fog) that persist for an extended period of time following a person's initial recovery from COVID-19 infection. Super-spreader is an event or location at which a significant number of people contract the same communicable disease. Both of these words and concepts seem to be well assimilated into our normal usage, at least in a passive sense. TBH (to be honest) is probably familiar among social media users while amirite typifies the slang spelling used for "am I right" to represent or imitate the use of this phrase as a tag question in informal speech. As for the tech trending words, bit rot refers to the tendency for digital information to degrade or become unusable over time and zero-day relates to a vulnerability (as in a computer or computer system) that is discovered and exploited (by cybercriminals, for example) before it is known to or addressed by the maker or vendor. Of course, I looked all this up!
So, out with the old and in with the new, as the saying goes?
Well, I probably left 2021 just a little
bit wiser than I entered it. My New Year's resolution? To keep reading the
fascinating articles that appear in The Guardian and elsewhere and that prompt
me to ask myself "What am I missing?". Life-long learning in practice.