Data specialists are at the forefront of exploring new ways of exchanging value using blockchain, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts as direct exchanges between things, systems and people. These novel technologies are challenging concepts of value and value exchange in a variety of ways. Far from being neutral, they are entangled with political, economic, social and material arrangements, co-producing new relationships of power and distributed authority, which raises questions of ethics, privacy and trust. This is exemplified by a variety of fast-moving commercial services and new research agendas that explore such technologies in areas as varied as supply chain provenance, healthcare records, aid distribution, forms of digital identity, licensing and copyright agreements. We consider that designers have a unique opportunity to question these novel assemblages which may have a profound impact on our future lives. The emerging nature and increasing use of this underlying technological infrastructure encourages us to rethink current practices of ownership, trust and ethical relationships and to reconsider “value constellations” not as independent entities but entangled networks of people, services and things.
This workshop builds on our established research exploring material and experiential tools to explore the role of distributed technology and its socio-material implications, as well as our previous experience working with designers on Blockchain projects across the EU . We will explore the implications of the vastly evolving distributed ledgers and autonomous systems which introduce the principle that products and services may soon be owned and managed collectively and not governed by one person or authority, thus allowing us to rethink traditional concepts of trust, ownership and power. Following on from a previous workshop , this particular half-day design workshop will support participants’ critical understanding of these new forms of distributed power, trust and privacy while exploring what tangible tools may offer design researchers in understanding complex technological systems.