DECaDE at Design Informatics | A 2021 update

DECaDE (the Centre for the Decentralised Digital Economy) is a 5-year National Research Centre exploring how emerging data technologies such as Distributed Ledger Technology (aka `Blockchain’) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could transform our digital economy through decentralized platforms. At the Institute for Design Informatics, we are particularly exploring use-cases and implications of these technologies in the context of how audiences might engage with live events and artworks.

Use Case: New Live Event Economies

This project explores how venues, performers and audiences (live and remote) can participate in decentralised economies surrounding live events and performance. Recording media content before, during and after a performance is a key feature of many live events. Audiences who attend in-person, or watch remotely, expect to consume and produce all manner of media related to a show, while performers and venues often look to audience engagement and media as valuable content. We are exploring new ways for venues, audiences and performers to transact and co-create value around live events.

Using design research methods and “field-testing” prototypes with partners in the live events sector, we will understand the different opportunities stakeholders are offered in novel decentralised systems. For example, the Ticket Designer is a discovery tool to explore ‘programmable tickets’ where audiences can use templates to design their own tickets connected to a range of other data-driven services and financial transactions. We launched the Ticket Designer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Glasgow Improv Theatre playing ‘Whose Ticket is it Anyway’ – where each programmable ticket became a prompt for an improvised scene.

GeoPact is an easy-to-use tool to explore geo-located smart contracts, which we’re using to experiment with location-based transactions around media and recordings for live events. We are also collaborating with the Nakatomi Plaza Arts and Cultural Trust within Decentraland to study the legal implications of charitable online concerts, and how the law of gifts and gifting can be aligned with smart contracts.

Through these prototypes, workshops, and partner engagements, we hope to develop rich opportunities for decentralised economies around live events, from supporting fan communities, through to payments and reward for audience generated media.

Design Project: Designing public interactions and ownership via NFTs

‘NFT’ – short for ‘Non-Fungible Token’ – has been declared the ‘Word of the Year’ by Collins Dictionary. This demonstrates the remarkable craze and hype around NFTs, which are variously positioned as speculative assets, the future of the internet, and a lifeline for digital artists or akin to multi-level marketing or pyramid schemes. (A good initial explainer for NFTs from a legal perspective can be found here).

As a research project, we are concerned and critical about the hyperbole and evident harms that can be related to NFTs. However, looking beyond the hype, they do offer novel ways to consider payments, rights and ownership of creative work, in particular, generative art and digital media. To this end, we are embarking on a design-led research project to study and critique how wider publics can interact with NFTs, and explore novel, decentralised forms of ownership that NFTs may make possible.

Through Inspace City Screens – which project out from Inspace Gallery onto the street at Potterrow in Edinburgh – we are developing an experience where passers-by will be able to:

  • interact with a live camera to create a unique piece of generative art
  • set up or connect a ‘wallet’ which allows them to mint and exchange NFTs
  • ‘mint’ their artwork as an NFT (click here to learn more about minting NFT)
  • explore the meaning of ‘ownership’ that is (or is not!) provided through an NFT

As with much of our work at Design Informatics, what we are interested in here is how to engage wider audiences with upstream technologies, and to use design methods and prototypes to explore key features, qualities and implications of these technologies. In this case, we’re curious about the design and onboarding of ‘wallets’; people’s experiences of ‘minting’ their first NFT, and to probe the extent to which NFTs meaningfully offer ownership and facilitate novel contracts of digital art and media.

This remains work-in-progress, but we hope is the first step to numerous engagements where publics can experience and explore futures of decentralised media.

Learn more from our Design Informatics project contributors in these short videos:

Designing Public Interactions and Ownership
Dr Chris Elsden
Chancellor’s Fellow in Service Design


Being Charitable in times of COVID
Dr Burkhard Schafer
Professor of Computational Legal Theory

Click on the photo to be redirected to the Zoom video with transcript or access the video with a transcript in this link.