Women of NEAR: La Devochka, the NEAR Community Wordsmith

4NTS Guild
10 min readJan 14, 2022

Women of NEAR is a series dedicated to highlighting the work, vision, and experiences of women leaders in the NEARverse. By exposing women’s contribution to the ecosystem, it aims at inspiring other women to join NEAR and enrich it with their ideas. In this final episode, Rimberjack flips the script and puts the spotlight on La Devochka — the very woman who created this series.

La Devochka is a full-time scholar, 4NTS Guild wordsmith, cypherpunk ally, polyglot, and world traveler, among many other things. Born and raised in Italy, La Devochka came into adulthood in Scotland, where she perfected her English. Afterwards, she made her way to Belgium to study philosophy for her Bachelor’s, and eventually European studies for her Master’s.

In the NEARverse, the community knows La Devochka through her words. You have seen her articles on the NEAR Protocol Medium page, ranging from interviews with founders, Web3 theses, overviews of the NEAR ecosystem, to this very series, “Women of NEAR.” She is the reliable, go-to content creator when NEAR projects need to reach the community without sacrificing either depth or readability.

Representative tweet from a NEAR community member

La Devochka’s entry into crypto was fortuitous. Crypto or blockchain was not a part of her world until she was contacted by her college friend, Ozymandius, to join the 4NTS Guild as a writer about a year ago.

“Basically, I started with Ozymandius, who is the leader of 4NTS Guild. He contacted me when the guild was just getting started and there was still not a clear idea of where the guild was going to go. He told me, “We’re starting this project, maybe read some things about crypto. And let’s try to write some content or to do some research to do something valuable for the ecosystem.” I think something that really pulled me in was the fact that I knew most of the people that were in the guild, and it just seemed like something fun. I was like, “Yeah, let’s just, try this out and learn something new. In the worst case scenario, I’m just hanging out with some old classmates.”

Some of La Devochka’s works from this time include profiles of the early NEAR community, as well as research-oriented articles on the Open Web. It was these contributions by La Devochka, among other 4NTS writers, that helped jumpstart NEAR’s early community, and build 4NTS into the community megaphone and hub it is today.

Working from one of the many offices in Mexico City

What La Devochka really likes about being a Web3 writer is being able to observe and engage with a newly emerging sector. Crypto quenches a thirst for dynamism and real-world relevance that is often missing in academia.

“I really like philosophy, but I started feeling that I was kind of detached from the world or from what’s happening. I kind of needed a stimulus, basically, to see, “Okay, this is what’s happening in the world,” and “How can I make sense of it?” and “What can I see emerging from it?” And that I think really grabbed my interest.”

Today, as a researcher in bioethics, La Devochka’s philosophy centers the discourse of biopolitics and critiques of neoliberalism.

“I was always more interested in political philosophy. I kind of ended up in bioethics because there was this opening for a research assistant in this project. […] But with time it kind of grew on me, especially because it’s very much related to other discourses that I’m interested about, like biopolitics, for instance, which is very much related to what I’m doing right now, because I’m researching the way in which COVID regulations are affecting people, what kind of system this is creating, and the way it influences the practices of self control, and self monitoring, which are very much neoliberal practices.”

In this way, she finds continuity between her philosophical interests and the newly emerging field of blockchain and cryptography. For instance, she sees the cypherpunk movement as a step towards data autonomy and privacy. A “future where we are not so controlled by governments or big corporations,” in her words. Similarly, DeFi interests her “because of decentralization, and applications that basically add a layer of disintermediation, and basically take away the power from these traditional gatekeepers like banks.”

Where all of the magic happens.

In the end, this is what keeps La Devochka in the Web3 space: it is a sandbox for new visions of the world.

“For me, it’s very interesting to see what the ideas in this space are to create a different vision of the world. I’m mostly interested in that because I really think that we need to think about different ways of living. And crypto that this is a clear new pathway for doing that.”

The space is yet too young to tell if crypto and the emerging Web3 world will truly fulfill all the things it promised, such as decentralization, transparency, and ownership. But she sees that the potential is there.

“I’m cautiously optimistic though,” she added.

The best “working” spot, a terrace in Istanbul, Turkey

La Devochka offers a unique perspective as a woman of NEAR, belonging to two worlds at the same time: the academic world and the crypto world.

As a female academic, La Devochka has experienced certain prejudices against her in her field.

“In academia, there are not many women. It’s mostly men, in particular in a field like philosophy. I clearly perceived that there is a kind of preference towards men, as opposed to women, even though they do a lot to cover that. But definitely something that I felt was just this lack of trust in my abilities.”

While crypto is similar in that it is still very much a male-dominated space, La Devochka sees two things that differentiate it from academia or the traditional workspace. For one, crypto is so young that it is not yet defined by hegemonic frameworks.

“Especially in philosophy, for certain issues, if you raise certain objections of a way of thinking that you think is kind of imbued in a misogynistic logic or a very male-centric logic, [the response is] like, “Oh, that’s not true,” or “It’s not so important.” It’s not encouraged for women to be more critical about frameworks developed by men. And I think that this is a huge issue in philosophy. […] While in crypto, I don’t feel such a thing. It’s also a very different field, but I also think there is no such thing as a “men” framework. And since it’s something that is so young, I hope that as more women join this space, they will even be able to contribute in a more significant way, in creating something where female perspectives can flourish and are respected.”

Secondly, because of its nascency and culture of anonymity, La Devochka believes crypto offers more opportunities for women.

“Crypto offers more opportunity to everybody in general, but I think that it might be particularly appealing to women because you have the possibility of just showing your work and not necessarily putting your identity out there. And the conditions of work are that people don’t care whether you have children or what your future plans are, people are just accepting the situation right now, and they’re also understanding of things changing.”

At the same time, crypto is much more meritocratic and in higher demand for talent, which opens up more doors.

“I think that a lot is also based on the quality of the work you pull off. Right now one of the biggest challenges for the crypto space is to attract talent, so nobody cares what your background is as long as you are willing to do the job and do it well. I really hope that this will attract a lot of women to the space, so it can become a much more female oriented field.”

The wish to attract more female talent to the space and connect them together was ultimately what motivated La Devochka to initiate the series, “Women of NEAR.”

“I decided to do ‘Women of NEAR’ because I thought it’s still a space where most of the people working are men. So I thought it would be interesting to see what women’s experiences were in the space and how we could get them more involved. Or also, just promote what women are doing in the ecosystem because we have a lot of great examples of women doing very good work in the community. And to foster a sense of community as well. [..] I think that if you can read an article about them, like about someone that you work with, maybe next time you can be like, “Oh I read that you did this,” “Oh, me too,” or whatever. So it can help create more bonds that I think are difficult right now because of remote working.”

Yet another temporary office in Omaha, Nebraska

Having interviewed 7 women in the NEAR ecosystem for her series — from community builders, founders, artists, and developers — what had La Devochka gathered about women in crypto?

“Something that I definitely noticed is that women in crypto, they’re very flexible, but also open minded. They’re not very much interested in attaining in safety and certainty. They’re kind of able to have that light hearted leap of faith towards something. And then they’re very much rewarded for doing that.”

Another takeaway for La Devochka was the sense of affirmation the women she interviewed all shared.

“Another thing that I can see is that women definitely have the sense of feeling appreciated in this space. A lot of women highlighted that in traditional working environments they often felt like they were not given enough credit for the work they were doing or were not given more responsibilities. Many women in crypto found the affirmation and recognition that they deserve.”

On top of all this, the sense of openness and community that crypto provides due to its horizontal nature is a big plus for women in this space.

“It’s so horizontal. There is no barrier between the woman that works at the top and the woman that is just doing random work stuff. [Laughter] I think that’s very important: to create a sense of belonging. Because in traditional environments, if women are in different hierarchies, there is much less possibility for an encounter.”

It is this community aspect that strongly resonates for La Devochka in her vision of a female-oriented future for crypto.

“What I would like to see is more women joining the space and maybe to see some women groups emerging out of that. So just that you can have a space where you have brainstorming [sessions] to realize and bring to fruition things that are have a more feminine or feminist flair to them. That’s something that I would like to see in the space.”

Her final word of advice for women?

“My word of advice is don’t take it too seriously. Just explore, don’t think about it too much. It’s mostly about not getting too stuck in your head, like, ‘Oh, I don’t understand.’ Nobody fully understands crypto immediately , but along the way, things become more clear. So you don’t have to be discouraged if at the beginning, things don’t make sense to you, it’s perfectly normal that they don’t, you just need to give it some time and let it simmer for a bit.”

Looking more broadly into the future, La Devochka sees crypto becoming more mainstream, and furthermore, NEAR to be at the center of this technological, financial, and even social revolution.

“I’m very excited for NEAR because it’s the most decentralized blockchain. And I think that this is a very good basis for creating socially revolutionary projects.”

The challenge that remains for the mass adoption of crypto, or “onboarding the first billion users on chain” as NEAR often talks about, is being able to communicate the revolutionary nature of Web3 and convince people that this is something for them.

“In the future I think that we will see how much it can really change people’s lives in very concrete ways. And there the challenge is to be able to communicate it to people in a very simple way, and in a way that they understand, and will jump onto that, because I think that there are so many opportunities that the space offers, or so many alternatives that are really empowering for people. The only struggle is that some of them are not easy to understand because it’s a new, different incentive mechanism that is being created. So it’s difficult for people to trust that because we’re very much diversity and novelty-averse. The challenge is to break these aversions and show how great it really is, or can be.”

This is, in essence, La Devochka’s own challenge as a writer and thinker in the era of the Open Web. Her hope is that her words will be able to break things down for a general audience and connect the right people together to realize the potential that Web3 has to empower our lives.

You can keep up with La Devochka on Twitter, or stay tuned for her upcoming works on her Medium. Additionally, La Devochka’s academic publications can be found here.

Rim Berjack is a writer for 4NTS Guild. You can check out their Medium for more content or follow them on Twitter.