Could blockchain change the nature of ownership in the museum?

Lightning Talk

Saturday, April 04, 2020: 2:00pm - 3:30pm -

Frances Liddell, University of Manchester, UK

‘Blockchain technology […] could be the next major disruptive technology and worldwide computing paradigm’ (Swan, 2015, p. vii).

‘Blockchain is an important and powerful new technology but ‘we don’t know what a blockchain can do yet’’ (Catlow et al., 2017, p. 21).

‘[Blockchain] may well liberate us from the tyranny of centralized intermediaries and trusted authorities, but this liberation could come at a price’(De Filippi, and Wright, 2018, p. 210).

In 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz paid 10,000 Bitcoin for two Papa John’s pizzas and, in doing so, made the first proper Bitcoin transaction. Since this time, we have seen the rise in the hype around blockchain, a technology which ‘blockchain evangelists’ claim will bring a revolutionary alterative decentralised system for society in which we no longer need to rely on intermediaries such as banks (Swartz, 2017). But why does this matter and why should museums care about this technology? Based on the author’s collaborative PhD with the National Museums Liverpool, this lightning talk will cut through the hype to present how blockchain could impact the museum in relation to ownership. Specifically, this talk will highlight how cryptocollectibles (digital assets that are stored on the blockchain) could implement the idea of collective ownership between the museum and its audiences using the museum object as the central social agent.

Catlow, R, Garett, M, Jones, N & Skinner, S. (2017) Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain. London: Torque Editions & Furtherfield.

De Filippi, P. and Wright, A. (2018) Blockchain and the Law. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: Harvard University Press.

Swan, M. (2015) Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy. Sepastopol: O’Reilly.

Swartz, L. (2017) ‘Blockchain Dreams: Imagining Techno-Economic Alternatives After Bitcoin’, in Another Economy is Possible. Cambridge & Malden: Polity Press, pp. 82–105.