sounds perhaps a little dystopic in regards to the highest social media usage, it does also point towards a growing data literacy and web literacy sort of demographic, which is really ushering in this, they call it the “Golden Demographic”, where the majority of the population is younger.
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Tropical Futures Institute
by Chris Fussner
I’m Chris Fussner from Tropical Futures Institute based out of Cebu, Philippines.
Thank you for inviting me to present and speak about some of the work I've been doing in the Philippines, and in the metaverse at large. First of all, I’m basically a multidisciplinary designer and researcher, and I started working on Tropical Futures Institute around 4 to 5 years ago as a side project. It's only really been the last year since we really started to go more full-time. Team is myself, Sayoka, and MJ, and it's positioned as a multidisciplinary studio / think-tank of sorts. Primarily, prior to the pandemic, we had been doing a number of localized events in the Philippines, specifically, Cebu, Philippines. So, we hosted a residency program, we used to do a bunch of in-gallery events with this partner gallery in Cebu.
Primarily targeted towards new media, zine fests, parties, music. It was a very trans-disciplinary, flat, sort of curatorial direction that we took on with the gallery there, and we would have a yearly residency with friends and friends-of-friends of TFI.More recently, we started working with artists as sort of an artist management studio and going to art fairs, such as Art Dubai, Art Fair Philippines, Art Singapore, S.E.A. Focus. Other activities include curatorial; This last year we had the honor of curating, the NFT section of Art Fair Philippines, as well as a new media section of National Gallery, we were a response curator. Also we produce objects and different sort of, I guess, artifacts.
Today, I'm going to be sharing about a recent show we curated and co-curated, thanks to Art Fair Philippines alongside Colin Goltra and Gabby Dizon. It’s titled “Welcome to the Metaverse”, and the primary objective of this section, that was part of the digital art fair of Art Fair Philippines, was to explore NFTs, Web 3 and the metaverse at-large, particularly related to crypto, though, related to NFTs. It came at a very opportune time. I mean, when we started the project, it was very much a fringe thing and it wasn't as trendy as the year led up. In the months beforehand things really started to explode and we expanded the program and really just covered several core pillars of looking at people that have been working with NFTs and smart contracts as artists, to Blue Chip participants, to the local community in the Philippines that is part of the NFT community, as well as looking at the newer wave of crypto art and NFT participants.
It’s an important moment just because I think, outside of all the digital aesthetics and the hype and the prices, the purpose of the section was to really show the door towards, you know, hopefully the next iteration of Internet, which is titled Web 3.
It was extremely pertinent to be having Art Fair Philippines be one of the first art fairs to have a NFT and Metaverse/Web 3 section, as that really coincides with the growing digital literacy and accessibility to internet in the Philippines, and that's with growing internet penetration in terms of more people having access to smartphones, to data becoming cheaper.
As a lot of people might already know, we’re labeled as the social media capital of the world with the highest, I think, per capita usage of Facebook. So, although that sounds perhaps a little dystopic in regards to the highest social media usage, it does also point towards a growing data literacy and web literacy sort of demographic, which is really ushering in this, they call it the “Golden Demographic”, where the majority of the population is younger. This sort of youthful composition of the population alongside what is called the “iron triangle”, which is ecommerce, financial tools and logistics, can really create the next economic revolution in the Philippines in a domestic sense, which is amazing.
I think one of the proponents of that is the app Kumu, alongside GCash and few other Web 2 start-ups. So, kumu is a streaming platform that encourages creators to sing, dance, talk, have conversation panels to karaoke and that sort of bridging in this new wave of creator-based media.GCash is a payment platform that's really taken off after Covid, and we have this amazing logistical battle between all these companies trying to secure shipping and logistics routes within the Philippines. So, you combine this with the seed of Web 3 where we have companies like Yield Guild Games, which is en-route to become one of the fastest unicorns in Southeast Asia and within the Philippines. You have other guilds and Web 3 companies such as Unimax and Block Chain Space, and a lot of these companies are really paving the way for the the next space for the internet, and whether it's gaming through NFTs and through play-to-earn, or people creating digital art and getting compensated appropriately for it, there is definitely a moment and it's within this time that we see this watershed transition and this phase transition into more digitized economy in the Philippines, and that is definitely represented in some of the cultural output. Also to mention Outplay Games, as well as other platforms that are really leading the way and creating new avenues for people to interact with the digital economy, whether it's through creator platforms or through crypto-led digital currency decentralized initiatives.
Alongside of that, we also have a plethora of burgeoning new media and digital art scene, not to mention the independent film and cinema industry in the Philippines is already extremely strong internationally. But from within, we have a rising class of new media digital artists using techniques from virtual reality, to creating Internet-based environments, such as Club Matryoshka which creates these Minecraft levels where they host these parties, where they have hundreds of people from all around the world attend their party, to artists like Cologne doing more generative, adversarial neural network art, and then some of the older guard such as James Carl doing more new media, video and sort of analog electronic installations. All these things combined are really pointing towards a new future for the Philippines, but as well as for Southeast Asia, in terms of really having our digital moment where we have this trifecta of e-Commerce, finance, logistics, but also culture, and I think culture is a huge leading indicator for how our economy will shape up and grow around the region.
We've already seen how this digital economy can greatly improve and impact economies such as the US, and certain economies in Europe, and South Korea, and we can see how that shift is already happening for ourselves in Southeast Asia, as more and more of the population becomes digital and immerses themselves into this digital world. It’s a bright future across all spectrums, I think, in ASEAN in the Philippines.
Before obtaining a degree in design thinking and strategy from Parsons, I co-founded a men's clothing company sold in over 30 stores worldwide, redeveloped Singapore’s national identity, and have contributed towards policy recommendations for Grameen Bank.
I have a global perspective having lived in Singapore but have conducted business and traveled all over Southeast, East Asia, and America. I am an excellent research, team player/builder and designer. My classwork included field research for conceptual and practical design interventions, technological and design critique, trend forecasting, brand strategy and innovation studies.
I’ve done written and researched on the intersections of big data, urban forms, and slime mold; assembled teams to tackle complex problems, such as developing a use case for community designed infrastructure centered around drone delivery ports; a landscape survey of New York city’s different mesh networks. I was commissioned by the School of Design Strategies in Parsons to deploy an installation during NYCxDESIGN; I assembled a team of peers to develop a user experience installation that encompassed print, spatial, web, branding, interface design, and machine learning to simulate a basic transactional exchange of data for a cookie. This experience questioned the current paradigm of data ownership and was featured on several design, technology and strategy publications worldwide.