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Blockchain and Beyond: Understanding Blockchains through Prototypes and Public Engagement

12/22/2021
by   Dave Murray-Rust, et al.
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This paper presents an annotated portfolio of projects that seek to understand and communicate the social and societal implications of blockchains, distributed ledgers and smart contracts. These complex technologies rely on human and technical factors to deliver cryptocurrencies, shared computation and trustless protocols but have a secondary benefit in providing a moment to re-think many aspects of society, and imagine alternative possibilities. The projects use design and HCI methods to relate blockchains to a range of topics, including global supply chains, delivery infrastructure, smart grids, volunteering and charitable giving, through engaging publics, exploring ideas and speculating on possible futures. Based on an extensive annotated portfolio we draw out learning for the design of blockchain systems, broadening participation and surfacing questions around imaginaries, social implications and engagement with new technology. This paints a comprehensive picture of how HCI and design can shape understandings of the future of complex technologies.

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