Kes meets Ana Roman

Kes meets Ana Roman - 1 on 1 conversation 🌈

We carried out a set of 1 on 1 conversations to better understand peoples' experiences of inclusion and belonging in the web3 space. For this conversation, Kes meets Ana Roman - Protein Founding Member, music artist and AI ethicist working in the web3 space. Ana is also Founder of Skulptor.

Kes:

Hey Ana, welcome and thank you for joining me.I’m just gonna record, is that ok?

Ana:

Yeah yeah yea, I figured. I love doing this with you, this is so fun.

There’s been an acceleration of women in my demographic who are in web3 and have come into web3 not as a get-rich-quick scheme or to hop on opportunity, but because web2 and the experiences they’ve had in web2 have actually displaced them and disassociated themselves with their bodies, from quality of life, within either a corporate setting or just working from within web2 confines or structures. It’s going really from a data conversation, to also a very capitalist conversation of who's doing office housework and not getting paid for it. It's also going into a transparency conversation where the women that I'm speaking to - in TikTok and my own Discord and these other Discord spaces - don't want to be a part of the ‘shilling NFT’ conversation. They want to be a part of the ‘how can the arts be fully represented in the NFT space in a sustainable way’ conversation. These are all my web3 spaces and by default they are queer, black and brown individuals who have been in the space for a while that are shy, that aren't as accomplished - or they are accomplished, they just don't want to speak up… and they don't have Instagrams, they don't have Facebook, they mostly have TikToks.

The TikTok community I have forged, the women I have met within TikTok, has been seminal. Like it's why I haven't really been on Instagram a lot. So, Twitter, and Discord, and TikTok for me are the three trifectas of meeting these women and having these conversations. And the common theme that I'm seeing right now is, “I'm tired. Not only am I tired and overworked, I have felt invisible for 10 years, 13 years.” And - this is the other one - “I finally have the guts to show my art.” And the fifth one is: “how can I help you? Do you need something?” It's not transactional, it's quantum. So they're quantum give-and-take, sort of quantum exchanges, which aren't Darwinian, obviously, and I need people to really understand that about the web3 space. It's not, you know, like, if Kes gets her grad school degree in the web3 space, it's not Kes getting her grad school degree, it’s all of us getting our grad school degree. And that is so hard for some people to understand. Whether or not I'm aware of it, I feel the ripple effect of that. I feel when I'm in a space, even in a web3 space, I feel when there are certain people coming into the space. And I have to say, it's mostly men who use it as a barter and exchange. And they're not understanding that they cannot barter and exchange in a web2 way inside web3, because people are going to fall off and it's not going to work. Which is why most of the women I know are getting called to do community growth.

The other thing about web3 I'm noticing, is a lot of big blogs, big fashion people, big brands are really hopping on the web3 thing in terms of, let's bring in this really cool person… and when the human resources of that magazine or that fashion company comes together, they don't know how to put the budget into it because it's still such an abstract concept to them. They don't feel the need to allocate and compensate me the same way they would an editor-in-chief. They don’t know that it is lofty, web3 is a lot of hard work,iIt's still a beta space. It's not going to take off for me until another year and a half. It's still being tested, but it's still very necessary. And I'm getting called in almost to do these interviews where people want to be gung ho and hire me, but they don't want to have these conversations and they don't want to allocate the budget. So I go away and I say to them, okay, you don't need a web3 space, you just want an NFT platform. You have to understand that they are two different things. If you want to be successful in this… you can have an NFT platform, there's nothing wrong with that; you can have your visual language and curate and do your brand that way. But if you're going to grow a community around that, do an NFT space through a decentralised space that you claim that you want, these conversations have to change and there has to be interdependence. And so many people aren’t getting that yet. They want everything and all the benefits of it…it's like, you want to hire me so I can make you the next Bored Ape… you got the wrong girl. You want to hire me to get your community together, away from Instagram, mostly on Discord and TikTok, but you're not understanding that if you want me to get people to go to Discord, I have to have a web3 conversation in your TikTok. So there are all these little threads that people aren't getting right now. And also, they're not making their own. A lot of these companies don't really care. They skip a whole step when it comes to education; they skip a whole step when it comes to setup. And they skip a whole step when it comes to safety measures. It's more than just posting a whole bunch of rules.

You do have to have a safe space conversation. You have to have an inclusive conversation without virtue signalling about that; you have to bring in someone who represents these spaces. And you can't just do it invisibly. And last time I spoke in the Twitter space I named the publication, and I realised a week later when I spoke to them, that they have no idea what they're doing and they don't even have the budget for it. And so I was like so I'm not going to be consulting for free. These interviews are over. Like, I cannot believe they did that. And I saw it firsthand. You know, I hate to see this, but it was all white European men who were really enthusiastic about picking my brain. They have 4.3 million followers on Instagram. They had no idea who LATASHÁ was, they had no idea what Zora was doing, they just wanted to have a Bored Ape conversation. And I'm like, you really fucked up and got the wrong girl, this is not it. I'm not gonna rally your audience, I can't transfer an Instagram conversation into web3. That's not gonna happen. That's not the future. If you want an NFT platform to shill your soccer, your Adidas, or your cool thing, then do that. Come back to me though, if you want to have a smart contract conversation.

That's the other thing, in the last month I've been getting into music NFT infrastructure. Speaking of it, I'm talking to a Southeast Asian founder of an AR VR MIDI controller - like a virtual MIDI controller - who is very active on TikTok about music NFTs. And I'm about to release as a test my next EP on a sustainable music NFT platform that I feel safe doing. Not because it's popular, but because a lot of women brought me to it, there are a lot of caring men in the space, and it was such a safety issue for me. Also studying smart contracts. By the way, these women that I'm meeting in web3, these POC people, queer people, they are very interested right now. That's their daily life and their to do list is smart contracts. What does that entail? How does that benefit me? Where are those conversations being had? How will I feel safe without being intimidated in new structures? And how can I get my music out there on these platforms without feeling taken advantage of. Like, the first time I dropped an NFT was on Zora. And it wasn't their fault that this happened, but I floundered because there was no one to guide me. It was just here's your wallet, do your thing. Set up your wallet. There were just so many steps that were not taken. And it was like okay, it was more than just joining a Discord, you know, so there were just other conversations that needed to be had around it.

Kes:

Wow. Yeah, I feel like I've had similar things with people like reaching out to me and asking me to like have web3 convos with them and they don't understand the safety that's needed inside the space. I do think that even though there are loads of these things still happening, and will probably keep happening for a long time, there does appear to me to be some shifts happening in web3 around people realising that more needs to be done. I'm wondering if you've noticed any shifts around inclusivity, and identity in web3? What is causing them?  Who is leading them?

Ana:

Right, I think in terms of this shift happening, for me, I'm seeing, as I call it, a safety in finance, and a safety in community and a safety in intellectual property. This shift that is also happening is that the people who are doing the most revolutionary things in terms of changing the space, developing the space for it to be easier and to be more transparent, are black and brown people specifically, and women. The shift that's happening too is the conversation is less about, oh we're so excited, we're here and we're holding hands. Now it’s like, okay, we're here, things are going really fast. How do we keep it from getting co-opted and turning into another web2 situation? That is, that is a daily conversation. It's like, the more open resource, the more we give, the more we nurture, that is actually like an instant protest, by default, against this sort of shilling web2 kind of centralised way of thinking. And I think women having conversations in the blockchain, in cryptocurrency, investments - which is something that I know it sounds, for me, it sounds very cold, and it sounds very, not me as an artist - but I've had to really educate myself on it and be smarter about my investments. Who do I go to? Women. Women who are post coming off their Wall Street disasters, because they spent their careers in Wall Street going, you know what, fuck this - this is the shift, too. Fuck all that, I'm going to have a voice in here and bring up other women so we can have a financial stronghold. I know this sounds very combative at the same time, but for the first fucking time there is somewhere we can have a financial stronghold in this currency. Within caring for ourselves and feeding ourselves and not gatekeeping and no hidden fees and no hidden costs.

The shift that's also happening is Coinbase is not decentralised. Like a lot of people in it - women! - are going, “Listen, know the difference. Because this takes fees, this doesn't”. So the shift that's happening is, you know, mostly women being very concerned about where their money is going. Educating women about the blockchain, where to have those conversations on Discord, and what not to do also, with your art pieces. The shift that's also happening is, “where can I leave the least amount of a footprint? Where  can I express myself? Your form of it - this is very important - your form of expression in the digital art space, in the NFT space, really does start with where you did it. That's a creative DNA. That is your smart contract with yourself. It is your digital footprint from A to fucking Z to release. And people are like, “why haven't you released any music since a year ago?” I'm like, because I barely got paid from Bandcamp, I barely got paid from…I'm not even on Spotify, because I think it's, you know…which is fine, you know, but I got like a lot of accolades, which I'm very thankful for, but my system has to change. And I have to eat. And I really want my music to get heard. And it sounds like the future, my music.

But I have to be very careful now, how I do it, how I mint it, how I drop it, where it goes on the platforms I align myself with. It can't just be like, this auto, like, put it on all the streams and it goes out; it just doesn't get what it needs. It's not nurtured, art needs to be nurtured. And that's a huge shift that's happening in web3 is how is your art being nurtured? It's not so much you know, like, it's not even so much about the NFT platform, it's how are we getting together online and how are we getting together IRL with these events, and teaching and having these conversations and you know what, maybe you shouldn't jump a music NFT on this platform because of this reason, you know, maybe you belong here. And I'm teaching myself about that every day. That's mostly black and brown people, it's mostly women, that shift is something that needs to be paid attention to. And when men do come into the space with like… when I align myself with men who are developers, or they're building a MIDI instrument that's like, built on AI, I really look at their content and the spaces that they're in and how they interact with me to a tee. And they are totally for it; they don't blame me, in fact. That's the other shift that's happening. There are two types of cis men that I'm dealing with. There are the ones that are just babies, and they don't know what they're doing and they want all the Bored Ape benefits without understanding what web3 is and thinking it's just a trendy thing. Compared to, hey, I want to develop the web3 space and make it safe and accessible for everyone. Let me go to the women who are like leading the space, introduce myself and go, hey, you know, or understand that that's what it's about. And I think actually, web3 and music, NFT's and smart contracts just for me, is really on my mind. I think also one thing I encountered… I don't know if this is a shift, but more and more as I get to these spaces, I've had a few strange DMs from people in my Discord that I've had to block.

Kes:

Because you're obviously on Tik Tok and Twitter…how do you find the difference in being on those web2 platforms speaking about web3, but then being on Discord and being in web3?

Ana:

Discord is learning, giving, and teaching. Twitter is news. And a lot of my audience is still on web2, and they're just, you know, I think they're polarised. I think they’re scared, I think they don't know what it is. I think NFT's and web3, those two things are the same for them in some ways. And it's gotten a bad rap. I was lucky, you and I were lucky because we put those conversations first, about the ethics of the technology, before we dove in. Because that's just where my mind is. And they're seeing that I'm doing it in the way that works for me, but also helps the community, they just don't know where to begin. And they're free to dip into that. I've gotten a lot of personal DMs on Twitter, even Instagram, going “How do I do this setup? And I always send them to the Protein wiki. They get a little overwhelmed because everyone for the last 10 to 15 years has just been hypnotised by the scroll. And that's another thing - that's another shift; the constant perceiving, the constant consuming of the scroll proceeding. Versus, I made a friend in Discord, versus getting news on Twitter talk spaces about information about things I need to learn. That's what Twitter is good at. So then I can go to the Twitter spaces and then go to the Discord. Meet people, talk to them, learn things, get information, job boards, things like that. And then I go into TikTok and I realised that the conversations are more authentic, you cannot just look good. I'm getting anxiety attacks from Instagram.

Kes:

Same. Yeah, I don't really use it that much anymore.

Ana:

I'm finding there are few things that have become predatory to me. I'm in between a rock and a hard place right now, because I am a musician and I run a label and I have to promote certain things…but I'm making a very soft transition into TikTok. One of my videos just went viral for the first time like two weeks ago, it was so random. But then I'm meeting all these women in web3, that are teaching me things and that are finding more of a community in TikTok and in Discord and not being perceived all the time. And not being consumed all the time. I'm learning so much from other women. The difference also with Instagram is, there's something about it right now that you can't just can't have an authentic conversation anymore. It's hard for me to explain things to people. I don't want to just put up a reel. I was using Arena boards for a long time before I got on TikTok to communicate things, I was trying to get people to go from Instagram to my Arena boards to learn things about cybernetics in AI, transparency, read research papers, look at really cool art and things like that. Then I tried to rally and get people to go to my Discord, which I'm still building out and something that I'm constantly still learning.

Now people are like, “why aren't you up on my stories anymore?” and I'm like, because the space gives me anxiety. It's a one way conversation. I want to get to know you. I want you to be in a Discord channel. And, you know, it's just people talking at you constantly. So my brain trust really suffers. It’s silly that it gives me anxiety, I don't know why it gives me anxiety now, but I think it's a constant consuming and being perceived.

Kes:

Yeah. 100% I think it's not healthy. And it's designed that way. I think it feels radical to actually step out of that and not live like that. Web2 is constructed for people to live their lives filled with images, not having agency over their thoughts, so much. So I think that's why web3 feels a bit radical. And the fact that it's values based makes people feel a lot more safe in this space. I think there's still a lot of work to be done in web3, even though there's a lot of positives. I'm wondering what you think is still needed or missing in web3 to make it feel more inclusive or safer?

Ana:

I really wish there was a place in web3 that was like a beginner's hub that was sort of this planet unto itself that isn't owned by an agency or brand. It's sort of a repository of sustainable art NFT platforms, conversations about resources, open resources, conversations about data transparency, like one inclusive beginner's repository, or, what is a wiki? Or how to set yourself up in this. Education is all over the place. Literally, it gives me burnout. And I think for my next phase of my creative career, I'm learning every day, but I wish there was something that was on Discord. Like somebody just did something on Discord like a group of women got together and was like this is a Discord learning thing, let's learn this hands-on.

I wish there was also a space where there was just like a web3 recovering from burnout, just something like more cyber healing. I think the conversation that's missing in web3 is okay, I just got out of web2 and corporate and all this stuff. And I'm getting onto the blockchain. And I'm noticing that I'm having trauma responses of imposter syndrome. I don't deserve these investments. I can't do this. I feel burnt out, just women only or spaces that have care for them. And maybe I don't see them. Maybe I don't know them. Everybody on Discord, it's just like, the brand and the thing, and it's just like, where can we go to heal? Where can we go to learn? Where can we go to heal, and not talk about events. Work, shop, financial health, digital health, 21st century body health together… where can we go and fix our minds and decrease our ADHD, mental health, that type of thing. I'm not seeing that enough. I'm seeing it spoken about, I’m not seeing full on channels that are repositories for it. I think conversations, yeah, they're happening on Twitter and stuff like that sometimes. But I think we're having a lot of infrastructure conversations, we're having a lot of set of conversations, we're having a lot of like, Friends with Benefits is having a cool event, which is cool. Love it, love to network, love to see it, sliving, that's hot. But there needs to be some healing and I'm just gonna say it; as humans progress, we're collectively traumatised as humans. You're looking for something right, In web3. Even just around us, the post-pandemic; we are collectively traumatised. And the other thing is - they are trying to get rid of Roe versus Wade here in the United States. They're trying to rewrite the Constitution once they get rid of Roe vs. Wade, they're going to try and get rid of privacy and then they're going to try and get rid of rights for trans people and queer people. And right now is the time to start building these hubs that aren't about like, you know, a tempo event. How do I unplug from that space and go here because I need to get paid, I need to learn, I need to meet other people, I need to heal. And I want to do it in complete safety. I don't know, and I could be wrong. But these are gaps that need to be filled for me personally.

**Kes:**Yeah, 100% I feel like a lot of digital spaces need to feel a lot more caring and comforting and healing. I think in web3, a lot of spaces still don't feel like that, they're moving very quickly, and don't really have that slowness and intention to them. But I am noticing more and more spaces like that popping up, but it's still quite few and far between.

Ana:

Well also there’s the conversation of capital - I can’t believe I fucking forgot to even talk about this. The reason why is because my audience on Instagram and Twitter, and people I've known for like 10 years, view this as a very privileged space.

Kes:

Yeah. It is in a lot of ways, especially if you see it from outside looking in.

Ana:

Unfortunately, what's in the media about web3 has come from very privileged faces. That's why I love Protein because they have people like LATASHÁ speak. I feel like it's my unspoken job to align with people who have worked hard, who have been through a lot, who have been looked over, who have felt invisible, who have been taken advantage of, or who had less advantages while they're being taken advantage of in these spaces, and they're revolutionising them. And most of the women that are revolutionising them are black or latina, and that don't even have college education. So where they came from, like, the bottom of the barrel, you know, and it all depends on the conversation you're having. But the hesitancy that a lot of my peers have is, I feel like I have to have like a club card for this. And they're like, Ana, what's your club card? I don't have a club card. I just wanted to align with different people and be part of the future. Did I get discriminated against at first? Absolutely. And it was the same with gaming. When all these gaming communities at the end of 2020 because they wanted to learn unity. It was fucked up.

Kes:

Yeah, I think there’s still so much prejudice online about what you’re doing and why. Like all my friends, they say to me, why are you in web3, that’s for rich white guys. And I’m like, no it’s not. It’s toxic because those beliefs just perpetuate; like those types of people dominating the space. The people doing the best things are not white, cis males with money. We need to shine a light on those people, do more collaborations. Something that I love about web3 is that it doesn’t feel very competitive; it does feel quite supportive, and collaborations feel more organic, it’s not like a brand being like let’s do this collaboration, it feels more naturally collaborative.

**Ana:**Interdependence. It’s all about interdependence.

**Kes:**Yeah, I was talking to someone the other day and they said they thought that web3 has a great opportunity to bring back digital activism - grassroots digital activism. And I wondered what you think about that?

Ana:

You really brought up a great question. With Roe vs Wade and our constitutional rights being rewritten, especially in terms of privacy, everyone wants to have political discourse in their Instagram stories. What no one really wants to do is get off Instagram stories. Everyone is spouting opinions. The only way to make a change is to mobilise off these social media platforms, specifically instagram, and vent. What happens when you vent and you express yourself in a space like Discord, or a Twitter Space or a WhatsApp chat? What happens when you start to vent is you start to come up with solutions? You’re not just consuming and perceiving. You start to give resources: “oh - let me pass this resource or link around”... so I think grassroots needs to start happening in these cyber-doula digital healing spaces in terms of feeling violated with privacy. Awareness, venting, and political discourse create grassroots, and it starts very small. And where it starts, it can start in a Discord room. It can start on an arena board. It can start in an email list; I’m all about the newsletter now. I’m all about private Telegram space where we’re going to meet at the protest. So I think also the terms of web3 can even be something as artistic and beautiful grassroots wise as, I’m launching an NFT project and all the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. That’s grassroots right there. If you can’t come to the protest, mint your artwork. If you can’t come to the protest, paint what you’ve been through or do your best. I think also grassroots can only be formed through getting rid of all the distraction, all the vids on the loop, talking, venting, nurturing…and then you meet up. And I think the problem I have is whether it's a decentralised conversation or not, it’s about quantum and community. It’s about interdependence. Fuck it if it’s WhatsApp. Because even if it’s WhatsApp, you can get off it real quick and start to have private conversations on a browser of your choice. I think people need to stop visually protesting because that’s not how grassroots are built. We know that from history. My grandmother was in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, so I feel confident that I know something about it. Her whole family suffered, she lost a brother, I was just in Spain and I recorded all her stories about it. She’s on Discord, she’s not on Facebook, and she told me, the only way to mobilise, to create change, is to take the angriest group of people, put them in a safe space without any of their weapons, any of their signs, any of their phones - or they can be in a digital space - and vent, vent, vent, vent, vent. We got that out of our system, what are we going to do about it now? And then the steps. Everyone shows up somewhere together, somebody streams it, I think the grassroots, there is a component of it that has to be IRL. You have to chart the steps. But you first have to get off the hypnotised scroll… because I think the anger venting visually is toxic. It gets you stuck and then you feel numb.

Kes:

100%. I feel like that was happening a lot recently. Every time there is a protest, I don’t even want to go on Instagram, I just want to go to the protest, to feel it and breathe it and just be there.

**Ana:**That’s why I went to the protest yesterday, I don’t wanna scroll and see everybody’s anger in stories and words. I feel paralysed and I start to feel numb. I go there and I meet women in their 80’s, men with their daughters, grandpas, I need to see the reality of it. I did meet groups there that had a Discord channel. I did meet other groups that were thinking of building one. They are now knowing what to do in the back of their mind. They’re like, we can post this in our stories til we are blue in the face, the conversations are not being had.

**Kes:**It’s really interesting. I think with all this in mind, everything we’ve spoken about, I want to ask you one last main question about all this, which is: what are your goals with web3 or in building your community?

Ana:

I think my goal in web3 is to learn how to communicate and distribute my art in a smarter, healthier, more interdependent way; how to become financially independent in the future and to help my peers do the same. And how to really mobilise our feelings, thoughts, emotions of what’s happening around us right now in the world in a safe space. I don’t want to be a leader for that, I don’t want to be anything for that, I want to be autonomous and I want to do the best I can in that right now. That is my goal for the next 6 months, and I honestly think that’s changing fast. Another goal is to be very, very clear and educate myself about smart contracts and help other people within that space educate themselves. I think also to be more active in communities that want to mobilise and vent and have something to say, and now’s the time to do it. We’re living in crazy times, and the crazy times for positive change are not gonna be created in Instagram, they’re not gonna be created even in Twitter Spaces now, I’m not sure with Elon Musk…that’s a whole other thing…I’m still processing that.

Kes:

I don't know how to feel about that, I mean, it’s scary. Actually this is a good question - if you could have anyone in charge of Twitter, who would it be?Ana:

I think… this is so autonomist anarchist of me… it would change month to month. You’d have a certain faction of people who would go, ok we’re gonna play with it this way. You’d have a faction of people in Iceland, and then it would go to Australia, you know, it would be groups of people in the world, like Planned Parenthood would take it over… it would have to be a completely decentralised, autonomous organisation. They wouldn’t co-opt conversations, they would build systems to make it better and better and better and better. Not just with the AI, but in unison with the AI, so that the AI just gets better and better and better. Because I think also with centralised systems and networks like Facebook, Instagram, and yeah it needs to be monetized and someone needs to manage it, but you can also feed and employ localities and get that money and transfer it over, so it would operate like a blockchain, it would operate like web3.

Kes:

Amazing. Yeah I did see somebody say the other day that it should become a DAO and I was like yeah that would be sick.

**Ana:**Yeah, it should operate like a DAO. To me that’s where my mind is.

Kes:

Yeah that would be amazing. I’m just thinking what else…specifically in terms of inclusion and belonging, identity and safety, accessibility, are there any other things you’re thinking about in web3 positive or negative?

Ana:

I didn’t want to DAO dominate the conversation but I think by default that’s sort of what I’m saying. DAOs for me, if you are building a company or building a statement or building a platform that does not have a support system built in like a DAO where you can put in a proposal, you can build on it, step by step, be fully transparent with it, then it starts to affect my safety. And that’s another one of my goals in the next six months is to really learn the ins and outs of what a successful DAO is because you almost can’t go into smart contracts and start being crazy about music NFTS and stuff like that unless you understand how it all works. I’m not going to align myself with a music NFT platform unless they’re operating in some sort of a DAO way. And I think that is a shift right there too, I think a lot of people are joining NFT platforms and different Discords that operate in those systems. And you can do both. My goal for myself too is to get rid of this patina of privilege… it’s a privileged space and to get my peers to go, wait a minute, I wanna know more about this.

Kes:

Cool, love it. Thank you so much Ana, this has been really insightful and I feel very humbled and inspired by you.