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The Story of Ink DAO, a Group Bound by ERC-721 Tattoos and the Collective Hope for a Better World

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As I pulled up to Zutto’s in Tribeca on the crisp autumn New York evening for the inaugural Ink DAO dinner, I couldn’t help but think about how absurd the entire occasion was. What started as a joke a little over a month ago has turned into a thriving group chat of 27 members all who have inked “ERC-721” someplace on their bodies, and a substantial percentage of people got it as their first tattoo. 

At dinner, it was nice catching up with new friends that I knew by their cartoon profile pictures. All of us have our own stories and are at different places in our lives, yet we’ve bonded with one tattoo and were lucky enough to share a moment together IRL at a Japanese restaurant in Tribeca. 

Ink DAO is still in its very early stages, but it’s quite obvious that we all feel like we are a part of something special.

Ink DAO is a living hive mind of individuals collectively writing a story together…

Ink DAO is a living hive mind of individuals collectively writing a story together. That’s how Diana Chen, whose shitpost on Twitter led to the inception of the group, describes the group. The story she speaks of is our subjective sliver of what we are experiencing in the massive real-life MMORPG currently referred to as the Metaverse that is being “played” right now by thousands of participants around the world. 

Traverse the Metaverse

The Metaverse is not a virtual reality destination in the distant future but the digital layer engulfing our lives in the here and now. Twitter is the public square, OpenSea is the trading post, group chats are the private meeting houses. 

There’s in-game currency (tokens), collectibles (NFTs), and guilds (DAOs). From our Twitter accounts to .eth addresses, our Web3 identities are displayed publicly for the world to see. Everyone in Ink DAO is an active player in the metaverse, whether it’s helping beginners get comfortable with Web3, or RabbitHole, or helping developers automate their smart contract functions with Gelato. And with their ERC-721 tattoos, members can add a new item to their digital collection as well as have a new guild to traverse the metaverse.

There is no treasury, there is no token. NFTs of our genesis tats are still in the works, yet Ink DAO is a perfect snapshot of what it means to be a part of Web3. OneOfManyMatts, an early member of Ink DAO, views the group as the quintessential DAO, a group chat of people with common values vibing and brought together by a silly idea. 

And he is right, because what could be sillier than permanently marking our bodies with a token standard that 99% of the world wouldn’t understand? Yet to all of us, it makes perfect sense. Conversations in Ink DAO range from standard shitposting to showing off new tats to serious governance discussions about the future of the DAO.

Morgan Moskalyk Tattoo

As someone who is instinctively pulled to tattoos, when I saw Pet3rPan tweet “show any tattoo shop this ERC-721 font”, I knew then and there that I was going to get it. ERC-721 is the token standard for NFTs on Ethereum and two hours after seeing it, it was on my right ankle. 

To me, Ink DAO is a physical expression of being in it for the culture. I ultimately view joining the group as a meme filtering mechanism. From the shirts we wear to the groups that we are a part of, memes are bite-sized ideas that communicate our individual tastes and values. In addition, in its most basic form, filtering is binary and certain memes can filter people more effectively than others. When it comes to Ink DAO, when I see that someone has taken the initiative to tattoo something on their body like ERC-721, then I know we must share some of the same values.

Are we going to let greed cloud our visions and repeat the mistakes of Web2?

In addition, the historical context behind ERC-721 is quite significant. As the first non-fungible token standard, it holds a special place in the history of Ethereum and NFTs as it was the first time NFTs became its own category. 

For years, ERC-721s lurked in the shadows as ICOs and later DeFi took center stage. Yet in 2021, it surged to the forefront as the front-facing trojan horse of bringing public awareness to Web3. And with the likes of Jay-Z, OBJ, and Steph Curry using JPEGs as their profile pictures and Snoop Dogg acting through a Twitter alt that’s an ode to the Italian Renaissance’s most prolific patrons Cosimo de’Medici, it’s more than clear that NFTs are the cultural backbone of Web3. 

Ink DAO Ethos

In addition, Ink DAO is a cultural representation of the punk ethos that underpins all of crypto. Punks have historically been a counterweight to the status quo, seeding society with ideas that fight against perceived injustices. A way that punks have expressed themselves is through tattoos.

Punk has a certain aesthetic to it and the simplicity of ERC-721 makes it the perfect meme to proliferate the Ink DAO ethos to the masses. And as more and more people cross the rubicon into the metaverse, we will all face questions on what kind of world we want to build. Are we going to let greed cloud our visions and repeat the mistakes of Web2 or are we going to take it upon ourselves to build new systems that empower individuals and the groups that they are a part of? 

Ink DAO is the hope for a better world, according to another early member of Ink DAO, NFT Mami. She had her own reasons for getting the ERC-721 tattoo and originally had an affinity to ERC-721 more than the group itself. She saw the symbol as representing both bringing legitimacy to art in novel ways, as well as the representation of Meliorism, a philosophy that posits human intervention alone can bring about meaningful progress. It is this “my action alone can bring about meaningful change” attitude that drives many in Ink DAO to participate in the metaverse.

She had her own reasons for getting the ERC-721 tattoo…

There are a number of questions facing Ink DAO now as the group grows in size. Discussions have included what other tattoos will be accepted into the DAO to the best ways to onboard tattoos artists. NFTs provide another avenue for tattoo artists of all kinds to express their artistic abilities in an area that is still relatively unexplored. Artists can turn their designs into 1/1 NFTs that can be redeemed for an actual tattoo as well as record their work on-chain. Developing the proper onboarding for tattoo artists will require much tinkering but will inevitably be done in one way or another.

Ink DAO is bigger than just one tattoo or one person — it’s a hypersigil collectively shared by its members that says we are all in this together and building a better world. Are we crazy? Probably. But it would have been hard to tell at the dinner unless you asked us to show off our tattoos. It’s hard to say where Ink DAO is going to go but no matter what happens, we are all just having fun with it.

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