15 March 2019
The CFP is out for a special issue in the ‘Blockchain for Good’ series of the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Blockchain, which I will be co-editing with Marcus O’Dair. Please circulate widely!
We welcome everything from long-form research articles and case studies to survey articles and critical commentary. Feel free to get in touch directly to discuss ideas.
(Note: The publisher has assured us that Author Publishing Fees are negotiable and may be waived.)
Keywords: Blockchain, propertisation, co-operative structures, tokenisation, creative industries, digital art, digital activism
Swartz (2017, p. 86) identifies two ways of adopting blockchain technology: incorporative efforts to innovate within the existing system, and radical attempts to bring about a new techno-economic order. Much of the excitement surrounding blockchain technologies relates to incorporative applications: large corporations benefitting from increased efficiency related to transactions, value capture, or data storage. The aim of this special issue is to explore the emergence of more progressive implementations of blockchain technology, focusing in particular on applications and platforms that facilitate new, alternative, co-operative ownership structures, rather than perpetuating existing models.
The successes (and failings) of several projects serve to exemplify such developments: Robin Hood Co-op, an ‘activist investment fund’ dedicated to ‘democratising finance on the blockchain,’ relies on a ‘parasitic’ algorithm that mimics proprietary trading strategies, and returns profits to its members. The ongoing art project terra0 is a self-owning, self-managing, ‘technologically augmented forest’ launched by a group of developers, theorists and researchers using the Ethereum blockchain; the group has recently issues ‘Flowertokens’ in an attempt to tokenise natural, physical assets inspired by CryptoKitties but applied to plants. Resonate, an ‘ethical music streaming platform,’ runs as a co-op and is built on blockchain technology; members not only share profits, but also vote on features and projects to develop, elect board members, and decide collectively on key policies and appropriate partnerships. Finally, there is Backfeed, an initiative that uses blockchain technology to encourage massive, open-source collaborations between peers without centralised control, through (transferrable) economic tokens and (non-transferrable) reputation scores. The result could be ‘massive open-source collaboration without any form of centralised coordination’.
Extending the trajectory of decentralised, distributed, and co-operative experiments outlined in these examples, for this special issue we invite critical reflections, theoretical contributions, as well as case studies that consider the following questions: What ideological, technological, social, or legal structures are needed to make alternative ownership models viable on the blockchain? Where will alternative ownership models on the blockchain be situated in relation to the leftist and the libertarian discourse that has so far dominated the debate? Will radically different ownership models be able to withstand cooption into existing commercial structures? What are the roles of artistic experimentation and activist organisation in advancing (or correcting) efforts to instrumentalise the blockchain in the creative industries? What, finally, is the conceptual role of tokens in all this?