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We need to talk about cryptocurrency stock images

Giving form to the formless: is it bad form?

Bitcoin being eaten by a cactus because 2018

We have our own version of stock photos (photo by Ken Kurson for Modern Consensus).

Cryptocurrencies aren’t easily given to images. After all, they’re digital files containing commands and numbers that can’t be visualized. For a medium like a blog post, for instance, posting a story containing only words would ignore the sensory stimulation people seek. .  People need to look at something. Anything. That’s why children’s books have pictures. Kids can barely understand the words they’re reading. They need to see Spot run, not just read about it.

Enter stock photography.

For better or worse, stock photos reflect our world. That’s why the emergence of cryptocurrency in stock images must be noticed and discussed. Thank you, Australian tech reporter Rohan Pearce, for doing the Lord’s work.

We’ve all definitely sat next to this guy in a coffee shop before. He’s the reason we left early:

No one wins when Matrix-chic collides with a stock image’s unforgiving polish. “Shhh! I’m only doing this because the photographer is my roommate and I owe him rent money”:

This woman lives and works behind a plane of green, floating dots. “Finger gun says, ‘You’re looking good, distributed ledger!’”:

Sometimes there are drawings instead of “photos.” Pearce remarks about this Tether cowboy coin cartoon: “My God, I need to write about Tether ASAP”:

It’s difficult to do stock images well. It’s even more difficult to match a high-quality image with a mostly non-visual concept. Cryptocurrency is unfortunately rife with terms that are simultaneously completely non-visual yet fundamental to the conversation. Consider the word “cryptocurrency” itself, which has more to do with math than it has to do with any physical object.

Let’s use “blockchain” as another example. Shutterstock turned up this abstract beauty, a chain replete with fiber optic lighting. Is this the blockchain we’ve heard so much about?:

When abstract images fail to illustrate a concept, there is of course text. We know this stock image is about the blockchain because it says “blockchain” right there:

We also got a kick out of this neon answer to the question “What does ICO stand for?”:

The scene is similar over at Pixabay, where cryptocurrency is understood to be a gold coin viewed through Iron Man’s heads-up display:

 

 

They think cryptocurrency is something that can be found in the couch (False, cryptocurrency is found in the landfill):

Stock images have a certain innate cheesiness to them that armchair philosophers could chew on for hours. They are earnest expressions of reality, yet they are completely manufactured. Once completed, they are then completely commoditized by the world’s creative community because of how well they reflect reality. It’s an existentially dense business.

In any event, cryptocurrency has completed the next level of social vetting by penetrating the stock image industry, where it mostly appears as a high-tech, ethereal concept image rather than a payments solution.

Dylan Love is an editorial consultant, contributing reporter, and fiendishly curious technology enthusiast. He owns no cryptocurrencies.