Abstracts (2020)

Exploring Blockchain in the Cultural Sector

Session 1:Governance & Economies

Distributed decision-making systems prototyped by artists

Aude Launay, Orleans School of Art & Design

Drawing from a series of case studies of decentralized autonomous organizations that can also be seen as artworks, such as the DAK (for Decentralized Autonomous Kunstverein, the first members-run art center based on a blockchain), the Trojan DAO (a fund for the artist community owned by the artist community), the Black Swan DAO (a DAO of local ambition that aims to put the unused resources of Berlin’s institutions to the benefit of the city’s artists) and Culture Stake (a DAO that offers the inhabitants of given places the opportunity to communicate their preferences for the public space artworks they want to see in the their localities), I will ask if this technology can really allow for an emancipation of art and artists from the opacity and weight of the current institutional frameworks. In a word, can the distribution of their power allow artists to regain control over their practice?

Abundant Story Economies: Using distributed ledger technologies to re-imagine community-based heritage work

Denise Thwaites, University of Canberra & Baden Pailthorpe, ANU School of Art & Design, Canberra

More than ever, the logic of scarcity penetrates cultural institutions charged with custodianship of our shared heritage. So how might the affordances of blockchain technology allow us to re-evaluate and re-configure the abundance of labour that sustains current heritage systems towards more equitable and sustainable futures? In this paper, we present the design and some preliminary findings from the experiment, Foraged Stories: a hybrid arts-based research project developed as part of Haig Park’s urban renewal program in Canberra, Australia. Building upon research from fields of community development, design-science, crowd-sourced heritage, media arts and activism, this paper we will highlight the some of the challenges and questions that arose through this transdisciplinary approach to prototyping a local, blockchain enabled story economy, opening on to possible next-steps.

Trickle Down, A New Vertical Sovereignty

Helen Knowles, Artist

Trickle Down, A New Vertical Sovereignty is a tokenised four-screen video installation and generative soundscape attached to the blockchain, which explores value systems and wealth disparity. The artwork is composed of auction scenes, performances and choral interludes by different communities such as prisoners, blockchain technology employees, market sellers, and Sotheby’s auction bidders. Trickle Down, A New Vertical Sovereignty draws on technological and financial power structures which traditionally scaffold the disparity between a wealthy elite and everyday working people but looks to re-imagine our vertically stacked digital ecosystem to horizontally distribute wealth.

Session 2: Tokens

Tokenisation and Blockchain Tech: A case for independent film finance?

Patrice Poujol, Founder & CEO of Lumiere Project

Over US$25bn were raised over three years during the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) wave, between 2016 and 2018 (Tan 2019, 31). Originally, this funding model aimed to rebalance the ‘triarchic relationship’ between governments, industries and individuals (Bauwens and Kostakis 2014, 67). The ICO wave has since faded in the background with regulators in certain jurisdictions limiting the potential development of such financing models.

This research will aim to answer the following question: To what extent can tokenisation help independent audiovisual content get financed? Based on first hand data and selected case studies such as the first successfully tokenised film ‘Papicha’ by Lumiere and Finfabrik, this research will critically inform the participants of the most recent and practical developments of tokenised funding models in the cultural and creative industries (CCIs), and particularly in movie finance. This research presentation will ultimately address the issue of sustainability as a new political-economic model of production within the CCIs worldwide and how the concept of value, as it is understood by Graeber (2001), is redefined in such a framework 

Tokens of Connection: Exploring how cryptocollectibles can be made meaningful

Frances Liddell, University of Manchester

Discussions on the value of blockchain tokens and cryptocollectibles often relate to a form of financial or economic value. However, this research explores beyond the financial aspect of blockchain to consider how cryptocollectibles might gain personal value in the museum context. This discussion will be based on a case study at the National Museums Liverpool (NML) where participants were invited to look at the museum collection through personal connection and these museum objects were transformed into cryptocollectibles. This paper will argue how this process challenges authority, ownership and authenticity of digital museum objects and, in so doing, highlights how the properties of blockchain can transform digital museum objects into something which is both personal and meaningful. 

Aura & Transvestment

Pablo Somonte Ruano, University of the Arts Bremen, Germany

Why claim ownership over the intangible? Why conjure a market into existence through the illusion of authenticity? Why build platforms, communities and infrastructure around enforcing property rights? Is this really what we need? To willingly carry the weight of physical matter? To knowingly emulate the unfair structures of capitalist markets? To surrender the infinite power of abundance in favor of commodity fetishism?

Aura & Transvestment is an artwork consisting of a video essay attached to a crypto-collectible that together explore notions of value, ownership, artificial scarcity and abundance. The essay is a critical analysis of the commodification of digital art taking Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura as a starting point. Finally, the essay proposes transvestment as a temporary counter-action for the expropriation of value from capitalist forms of production and into new models of social coordination.

Session 3: Provenance

Provenance on the blockchain: Might the art market be placing too much trust in decentralized information systems?

Gareth Fletcher, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London

This paper will explore the extent to which blockchain technologies have been employed to increase perceptions of trust and transparency in relation to the ownership and transfer of cultural objects within the international art market.  It will consider various factors that contribute to the establishment of trust within this relationship-driven industry and identify measures through which blockchain technologies might increase the accessibility of information in pursuit of greater market transparency. By examining the processes and strategic visions of existing art market blockchains, this paper will consider their potential strengths and weaknesses to identify areas of future development.

ARCHANGEL: Trusted archives of digital public records

Mark Bell, The National Archives, UK

Archives are trusted. But our turbulent times of fakery and conspiracy are decreasing public trust in officialdom. Digital records are transient, prone to corruption in copy and storage, and require format migration to preserve access. Emerging ‘deep fake’ AI technology further erodes trust in digital content.

For archives, this presents a twin challenge: guaranteeing the integrity and authenticity of digital records by demonstrating they have not been amended while in the custody of the archive, and ensuring citizens continue to see archives as trusted custodians of the digital public record.

This paper will discuss ARCHANGEL, a two-year collaboration between The National Archives, University of Surrey, and the Open Data Institute, which explored the possibilities offered by blockchain and AI to address challenges of trust, integrity and authenticity in preserving born-digital material.

Creating Cultural Value through Provenance: The weaver’s perspective of a blockchain experiment

Simone Wesner, Birkbeck, University of London.

Provenance registers the ownership of a piece of work and is used as a guide to authenticity and quality in the creative industries, manifesting cultural and economic value creation. Similar to thread that originates in plant fibres and is assembled in linear patterns during the weaving process, the blockchain resembles linear movement as it operates as a distributed digital ledger, adding a time stamp and record of what craft product the thread has become. In this paper results of a pilot study of a craft blockchain creation project will be presented. Seen through the craft-producer’s lens, the research draws on initial interview data with weavers carried out in Sweden, the USA and the UK in 2020. The weaver’s conversations revolved around ideological opportunities and reservation regarding the blockchain technology and reflects on practical issues of information recording and discusses possible visualisations of the blockchain.

Session 4: Creative Industries

Cryptokitties and the New Ludic Economy: How blockchain introduces ownership in digital gaming

Alesja Serada, University of Vaasa, Finland, Tanja Sihvonen, University of Vaasa, Finland, Tuomas Harviainen, Tampere University, Finland.

This article analyzes specific characteristics of value created through digital scarcity and blockchain-proven ownership in cryptogames. Our object of study is CryptoKitties, the first instance of a blockchain-based game that has garnered media recognition and financial interest. The objective of this article is to demonstrate the limits of scarcity in value construction for owners of CryptoKitties tokens, manifested as breedable virtual cats. Our work extends the trends set out by earlier cryptocurrency studies from the perspective of cultural studies. For the purpose of this article, we rely on open blockchain analytics such as DappRadar and Etherscan, as well as playercreated analytics, backed by a one-year-long participant observation period in the said game for research material. Combining theoretical cryptocurrency and Bitcoin studies, open data analysis, and virtual ethnography enables a grounded discussion on blockchain-based game design and play

Collaborative Approaches for Creative and Media Industries

Manuel Badel, Badel Media.

This presentation is an overview of how the stakeholders of an industry can contribute to a common goal, that of a creation of diversified, independent, profitable content and in full connection with the interests of the public. In the film, TV and digital media sectors, and mainly in the context of the Canadian industry, the session focuses on the implementation of such approaches and on the benefits of stakeholders, ranging from performant financial and marketing strategies for producers, especially in coproductions, to appropriate collaboration and support from public institutions, or greater engagement of targeted audience

Digital Media Art on the Blockchain

Rouslan Ovtcharoff, Blockchain Global Entertainment Alliance

The early stages of new blockchain entertainment platforms begin with incentivizing users to join their digital ecosystems by distributing cryptocurrency and crypto-collectible tokens, which have value and utility within entertainment platforms. Content creators can introduce cryptocurrency tokens as the official medium of exchange in the economics of their entertainment platforms, further allowing users to trade and monetize their ownership of digital assets. Every digital asset is represented by scarcity and uniqueness recorded on the blockchain, creating entire economies revolving around products and services not previously available to content creators. In addition to ownership, blockchain technology allows for the cross-platform utilization of digital assets providing new incentives and revenue streams within the entertainment industry along with increased user loyalty. Through blockchain identity services, users have control over their privacy and how much they are willing to reveal to participate in the entertainment platforms. Blockchain technology opened up new opportunities and ways for direct interaction between content creators and consumers where art can be owned digitally. The ​Digital​ ​Media Art on the Blockchain ​presentation will illustrate possible blockchain technology use cases in the entertainment industry. Examples will highlight different projects utilizing the technology across the art, video game, music, and film industries.