Shanghai residents are turning to the blockchain to preserve memories of the city’s months-long COVID-19 lockdown, capturing videos, photos and artwork that capture their ordeal as non-replaceable tokens to ensure they can be shared and prevent deletion.
Unable to leave their homes for weeks, many of the city’s 25 million residents have vented their frustrations online, venting about draconian lockdowns and difficulties in obtaining food, and sharing stories of hardships such as patients unable to receive medical treatment. .
That has intensified the cat-and-mouse game with Chinese censors, who have vowed to ramp up internet policing and group chats to prevent what they describe as rumors and attempts to avoid disagreements over the seething public frustration over the lockdown.
While some people have continued to defiantly post such content, others are turning to NFT marketplaces like the world’s largest, OpenSea, where users can mint and buy or sell content using cryptocurrencies, lured in part by the fact that data stored on the blockchain are recorded to be indelible.
The culmination of Shanghai’s lockdown coin moment is rooted in April 22, when netizens battled censors overnight to share a six-minute video titled “The Voice of April,” a montage of voices recorded in the course of the outbreak in Shanghai.
As of Monday, 786 different entries related to the video can be found on OpenSea, in addition to hundreds of other NFTs related to the Shanghai lockdown.
On April 23, a Chinese Twitter user with the handle imFong said in a frequently heard post: “I punched the ‘Voice of April’ video into an NFT and frozen its metadata. This video will live on the IPFS forever, referring to the interplanetary file system, a type of distributed network.
Like most major foreign social media and news platforms, Twitter is blocked in China, although residents can access it through VPNs.
A programmer from Shanghai told Reuters he was among those in the city who viewed their attempt to keep the video alive as part of a “popular uprising.”
He himself hit an NFT based on a screenshot of the COVID lockdown map of Shanghai, which shows how most of the city has been cut off from the outside world.
“Being stuck at home because of the outbreak has given me a lot of time,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Other Shanghai content available on OpenSea as NFTs for sale includes Weibo posts complaining about the curbs, images from quarantine centers and artwork inspired by life under lockdown.
Simon Fong, a 49-year-old freelance designer from Malaysia who has lived in Shanghai for nine years, began creating satirical illustrations about life in lockdown in the style of Mao-era propaganda posters.
He started putting them in NFTs, having dabbled in the market since late last year, and has now managed to sell nine of his works for an average price of 0.1 ether ($290).
His plays include scenes that dramatize PCR testing, as well as residents’ demands for government rations.
“I chose the Mao-era propaganda style for these pieces because some people say the lockdown situation is making Shanghai worse,” Fong said.
Although China has banned cryptocurrency trading, it sees the blockchain as a promising technology and NFTs are gaining traction in the country, embraced by state media and even tech companies, including Ant Group and Tencent Holdings.
The prolonged lockdown in Shanghai, China’s financial center, is part of Beijing’s controversial zero-COVID strategy, a policy that poses increasing risks to the economy. The COVID outbreak in Shanghai, which began in March, is the worst in China since the early months of the 2020 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands have been infected in the city.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)