Eugene software engineer Miguel Cervera has been a student of blockchain technology for years. “Many of the use cases for NFTs have not been discovered yet,” he says of the technology, which was developed in 2008. “There are a lot of ways we can benefit from it.”
So when Eugene Weekly jumped on the blockchain bandwagon this spring and auctioned a unique digital image of its April 8 cover as an NFT, it naturally drew Cervera’s attention. The initial bid, from another local software engineer, was $50; Cervera bid it up in $100 increments until it reached $1,000 and won the EW cover image when the auction closed April 23.
NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” meaning something that cannot be copied or otherwise reproduced. NFT art — digital files that can’t be copied, and whose ownership can be verified — have become a hot item this year in the digital art world. A single digital file by the artist Beeple (Michael Winkelmann) was sold at auction for $69 million in March.
EW’s NFT cover, an image by staff artist Chelsea Lovejoy that riffs on the 1929 René Magritte painting “This is Not a Pipe,” also known as “The Treachery of Images,” was sold as a way to help the newspaper boost its environmental coverage as well as to make up for the pandemic advertising slump — and to explore the strange world of high-priced art that exists only in digital form.
It’s not the first piece of NFT art Cervera has bought; he has several other pieces of Mexican NFT art related to tacos in his collection at OpenSea.io.
“NFTs are a nascent technology which will be more widely adopted in the following years,” he explains. “This Eugene Weekly NFT is the first NFT made in Eugene by a locally popular medium, so I wanted to own the first NFT created in the city that I now call home. Also, I think both the fact that the proceeds will support Eugene Weekly, and also a portion of it will go towards helping the environment were a big plus.”
Cervera, who is from Monterrey, Mexico, came to Eugene last year by accident. He had taken time off from his job at Twitter and was traveling by van with his partner when they decided to stop here for a concert by the metal band Tool at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Tool concert was to have been held March 12, 2020; it was among the first large gatherings canceled as the state shut down that week for COVID-19. “The day we arrived was the day the pandemic shut Oregon down,” Cervera says.
Cervera is fascinated with NFT technology and the ways in which it might be used to help society. He would be happy to correspond with other people sharing his interest; reach out to @MiguelCervera on Twitter.