The smart city imagined the city as a patchwork of platforms and services to be used by it’s inhabitants and visitors as customers. When blockchain is added to the mix, should we instead imagine the city as a licence, continuously updated and different for each individual? If algorithmic ‘smart’ contracts become the arbiters of rights and distributors of fees and degrees of access, blockchains need to be investigated for the values they support. Will a blockchain city be a fair city? Could urban blockchains be used to create common resources, like housing?
Perhaps blockchains could be designed to support an alternative economic model, one that puts ecological concerns and solidarity central. What if smart contracts were made to strive for equality among inhabitants? Or are blockchains inextricably tied to capitalist logics and will they always quantify and ultimately economize everything they touch? Who has a say in the design of these complex technological systems? What are the possibilities for opening up the design of urban systems to grassroots organizers?
About this Trilogy
This is the second episode of a series of three livecasts around digital ledger design.
Governments and venture capitalists alike are investing in blockchain technologies, hoping for examples to create robust governance systems or to streamline operations. While many blockchains will remain quite invisible to their end-users, many expect that they will be embedded in fundamental public and private systems such as taxation and ID management, and various everyday transportational and transactional processes.
What will these new technological systems mean for how people live together in cities? This online event series brings together researchers, technologists, designers, and artists to explore the social, political, and environmental impact of blockchain technology. Asking important questions about power, access, and transparency throughout, the events each feature a specific perspective:
- The uses of disorder in the blockchain city searches for the human in the machine, featuring designers and researchers that explore the (im)possibilities of human messiness in optimizing blockchain governance systems.
- Values in the blockchain city looks at proposals from researchers, artists and technologists for blockchains designed with solidarity and fairness as core principles.
- Urban commons in the blockchain city grounds the series with real world examples of blockchain projects focussing on sustainable development and the commons.