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"The Blockchain Effect on the Future of the Humanities" by Sherry Jones (July 20, 2016)


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July 20, 2016 - This presentation was featured during the July 20, 2016 live webcast on youtube. The focus of this presentation is on how the blockchain technology, the protocol that underlies and powers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, will change the future directions of the humanities disciplines, particularly affecting teachers' pedagogy and students' learning habits. The video is available here:

[Live Youtube Webcast]
"The Blockchain Effect on the Future of the Humanities" (July 20, 2016)

Published in: Education

"The Blockchain Effect on the Future of the Humanities" by Sherry Jones (July 20, 2016)

  1. 1. “TheBlockchainEffecton theFutureoftheHumanities” Sherry Jones The Metagame Book Club (Summer 2016)
  2. 2. WatchtheLiveWebcastonJuly20,2016!
  3. 3. WhatisBlockchain Technology?
  4. 4. ADefinition Blockchain technology is a type of protocol that secures data in a ledger like system, where every transaction is documented, time-stamped, secured, and tracked. Blockchain is also the underlying protocol that powers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which are successful blockchain prototypes. Many more blockchain prototypes, other than bitcoin, are currently in development. Interests in blockchain include anonymity, autonomy, security, and accountability.
  5. 5. WhatDoesaBlockchainLookLike? A Blockchain refers to a series of blocks that secure information. A blockchain begins with a genesis block, the first block that begins the blockchain. Each block contains a hash value that represents a proof of work (POW), a type of function that request work from a service requester to prove that a work is done. Each block is connected to a previous block by referencing the hash value of that previous block. Image by Yevgeniy Brikman
  6. 6. E3b0c44298fc1c149afbf4c8996fb92427ae41e4 649b934ca495991b7852b855 A hash value is generated by a hash function. Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA 2), created by the NSA, is an example of a set of cryptographic hash functions used in certain U.S. govt. apps. The above 64 digit code is a hash value generated by SHA 256 (“”) empty string.
  7. 7. The“firstGenesisBlock” CreatedbySatoshiNakamotoonJan.3,2009.
  8. 8. WhatisinaSingleBlockofaBlockchain?(1of2) “Prev_Hash: hash value of previous block. The purpose is to chain all blocks together.” “Tx_root: root hash value of a hash tree (w:merkle tree) over all transactions.” “Timestamp: creation time of block, as seen by block creator. The timestamp is checked by other clients and must be within a certain window (tolerates small clock skews).” “Nonce: any number to make sure the resulting hash value of this block is below the target hash value. The Nonce is a 32 bit number and the 2^32 number space is exhausted during mining within less than a second.” -- Matthäus Wander
  9. 9. WhatisinaSingleBlockofaBlockchain?(2of2) Image by Matthäus Wander
  10. 10. Publicvs.PrivateKeys Image from Stack Exchange Forum Each blockchain address is encrypted and secured by two keys, which act like passwords for authenticating a blockchain. In terms of bitcoins, keys are used to validate a transaction, which is an authorization to transfer value between wallets: 1. Public Key = Used to encrypt a transaction. 2. Private Key = Owner/Access key used to decrypt a transaction. Secure?: Private keys are never published to the public blockchain. Caveat: If lost, a key is unrecoverable.
  11. 11. BlockchainDistribution A blockchain is distributed via a network of servers. Each server, or node, carries the same copy of the blockchain being distributed. Blockchain data is repeatedly verified via mining: If 20 nodes exist in a network, then all 20 nodes will carry the exact same copy of the blockchain (with miners verifying). Ex. Bitnodes show reachable global bitcoin nodes (servers of miners).
  12. 12. This Illustration by Mark Montgomery shows how blockchain/ bitcoin creates a “trust-based system.”
  13. 13. This Illustration by Razor Mind shows why changing a information in a blockchain will be less common, as changes are quite expensive.
  14. 14. PanelViewpoints1: Reflectionson BlockchainDesign
  15. 15. PossibleFutureof Blockchain Technology
  16. 16. PossibleBlockchainUseinVariousSectors Infographic by and Blockchainage. com
  17. 17. BlockchainAstheNewLanguageoftheWeb “Today, we’re saying blockchain does this or that, but tomorrow blockchains will be rather invisible; we will talk more about what they enable. Just like the Internet or the Web, and just like data-bases, the blockchain brings with it a new language. From the mid-1950s forward, as IT evolved, we became accustomed to a new language: mainframes, databases, networks, servers, software, operating systems, and programming languages. Since the early 1990s, the Internet ushered in another lexicon: browsing, website, Java, blogging, TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP, URLs, and HTML. Today, the blockchain brings with it yet another new repertoire: consensus algorithms, smart contracts, distributed ledgers, oracles, digital wallets, and transaction blocks.” -- William Mougayar (May 11, 2016)
  18. 18. BlockchainastheRecordandTransferrerofValue “Blockchain technology (the secure distributed ledger software that underlies cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin) connotes the Internet II: the transfer of value, as a clear successor position to the Internet I: the transfer of information. This means that all human interaction regarding the transfer of value, including money, property, assets, obligations, and contracts could be instantiated in blockchains for quicker, easier, less costly, less risky, and more auditable execution.” -- Melanie Swan | The Edge (2016)
  19. 19. BlockchainastheCallforAccountability “At its most fundamental level, a blockchain is a string of securely linked data blocks serving as a time-stamped digital history of, well, pretty much anything. In an era where the fluid nature of the internet can be used to alter and rewrite even the most obscure of facts, blockchain meticulously documents every transaction and distributes that cryptographic data across decentralized nodes.” -- Rob Marvin | PC Magazine (June 3, 2016)
  20. 20. BlockchainasObserverofCryptocitizenAuthorities “Cryptocitizen sensibility and the blockchain news of the new invite the possibility of our greater exercise of freedom and autonomy, and rethinking authority. In a Crypto Copernican turn, we can shift the assumed locus of authority from being outside ourselves in external parties to instead residing within our own self. This is the Enlightenment that Kant was after, an advance not just in knowledge but also in authority-taking.” -- Melanie Swan | The Edge (2016)
  21. 21. PanelViewpoints2: Ethical Considerationsof BlockchainDesign
  22. 22. PossibleBlockchain Effectsonthe Humanities: 1. CanonProblem
  23. 23. WhatistheCanonProblem? ● Since the 1960s, critical theorists, critical race theorists, feminists, marxists, and other humanities scholars have been engaging in a debate about the academic canon problem. ● The “canon” refers to a selection of texts that scholarly authorities deem important due to the texts’ historical influence (whether in western or eastern canons). ● Non-canonical texts are often ignored/not assigned. ● Less known authors are often ignored/not assigned as subjects of study.
  24. 24. Jan. 22, 2016 chart by Quartz shows the top 10 texts assigned by the top ten U.S. colleges (data from the Open Syllabus Project). All authors listed are male.
  25. 25. MoreExamplesoftheCanonProblem ● Ex. Majority of assigned philosophy texts are written by male philosophers (ex. Slavoj Žižek’s political texts are assigned more than Judith Butler’s). See “Why Do Women Leave Philosophy” by Thompson, Adelberg, Sims, and Nahmias (Mar. 2016). ● Ex. Some scholars consider Chinese philosophy texts to be religious texts, or lack western logic, and thus omit Chinese philosophy from study. See “What’s Missing in College Philosophy Classes, Chinese Philosophy” by Eric Schwitzgebel (Sep. 11, 2015). ● Ex. More experimental poetics study is devoted to E. E. Cumming’ s postmodern syntactical form than to Matsuo Basho’s haikai no renga form.
  26. 26. PossibleBlockchainSolutionstotheCanonProblem ● Scholars can create blockchains documenting authors who are not considered in the western or eastern canon, thereby recommending new authors for study. ● Solving the Wikipedia Problem - Networks of scholars can create blockchain ledgers of the lifetime works by or about less known authors, whose works often are incompletely documented on Wikipedia (contributors document authors based on popularity). ● Blockchains become “new authorities,” countering the authority of the academic canon. ● Impact on Humanities: Educators can expand humanities studies through hundreds of blockchain canons.
  27. 27. PossibleBlockchain Effectsonthe Humanities: 2.OERIPProblem
  28. 28. WhatisanOER?WhatisanOERIP? ● Open Educational Resources (OER) are educational texts and materials published to be openly accessible by the public, for the purpose of promoting free culture and open exchange of knowledge. ● OERs can be published as Creative Commons or Public Domain. Ex. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International = Work can be distributed internationally; distribution requires citation; no derivative works can be made; work cannot be used for commercial purposes. ● Due to concerns over IP, authorship, and citation, many educators resist publishing OERs.
  29. 29. ResistancetoPublishingOERs Some educators resist publishing works as OERs, for fear that OERs: ● Would be more likely plagiarized. ● That carry CC license would not be properly observed/cited once published as OA. Ex. Making a derivative based on a scholar’s work when CC 4.0 non-derivative license is clearly stated on the work. ● Would not be published as Open Access (OA) OERs by certain publication platforms. Ex. College LOR systems block OERs. ● Would not be permanently saved on a publication platform, which carries the risk of being shut down or hacked. ● Would cost too much money to be published as OERs. See Gold Open Access (OA)as explained by Peter Suber.
  30. 30. Some scholars are concerned about not earning OER citation counts on Google Scholar, which does not track OERs.
  31. 31. TheDissertations+ResearchIPProblem ● Intellectual property rights of dissertations and research projects are usually co-owned by the research institution and the author, for a specific period of time (or indefinitely). ● Institutions hold research IP to ensure that research will be shared with the academic community (and not be removed by the author). ● Authors who wish to publish their dissertations or research projects as OA will have to wait until institution’s contract of ownership over research IP expires. ● Ex. “Dartmouth College Data Retention Policy” (3 Years) ● Ex. University of Minnesota - “Research Data Management: Archiving, Ownership, Retention, Security, Storage, and Transfer” (University Has Ownership Outright) ● Ex. “Harvard University Data Retention Policy” (7 Years; University Retains IP)
  32. 32. PossibleBlockchainSolutionstoOERIPProblem(1of2) Scholars, educators, and students can create blockchains to: ● Document OERs to maintain permanence and traceability of works. ● Recognize the OERs as intellectual property (IP) of specific authors and/or entities. ○ Ex. Each OER is published with a hash value, and is stored on a block of a blockchain. The “header” of each block carries the owner’s public and private keys. Whenever someone attempts to “copy” an OER saved on a blockchain, their “copy” will also carry the hash value of the original OER. The origin of the block will be verified and shown in all “copies” of the same block. Ownership is thus enforced.
  33. 33. PossibleBlockchainSolutionstoOERIPProblem(2of2) Scholars, educators, and students can create blockchains to: ● Document dissertations and research projects as co-owned by research institutions and authors, so that the authors can publish works as OA while giving credit to research institution. ● Claim and maintain authorship and/or ownership over a piece of work no matter how many copies of that work exist; acts of plagiarism would be automatically discovered/eliminated when all works carry a unique, hash value. ● Support self-publication of works, with no fear of IP loss.
  34. 34. PanelViewpoints3: Ethical Considerationsof Blockchaininthe Humanities
  35. 35. PossibleBlockchain Effectsonthe Humanities: 3.CitationStyles
  36. 36. PossibleBlockchainEffectsonDocumentationStyles With the introduction of blockchain technology, it is very likely that various research documentation styles, such as MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, CMS, etc., will require students to add hash values to their papers, so that the papers can be later certified and tracked on the institution’s private blockchain. A virtual “notary public” blockchain prototype for tracking documents already exists! Let’s take a look at the site, “Proof of Existence.”
  37. 37. Proof of Existence (Add Hash Value to Writing)
  38. 38. PossibleBlockchain Effectsonthe Humanities: 4.Portfolios
  39. 39. TheHumanitiesPortfolioProblem ● Many college students, particularly those in the humanities, are required to publish their essays and projects on an online portfolio. ● Some fear that their works will be plagiarized or publicly critiqued. ● Others cannot share their portfolio with potential employers if the portfolio is owned and secured by the institution. ● Documenting art objects in a portfolio, such as a physical creative art installation, a slam poetry session, or a virtual interactive fiction piece, is limited to URL linking or photos. ● There is no guarantee that the IP rights of published works will be observed.
  40. 40. PossibleBlockchainSolutionstoHumanitiesPortfolios ● The IoT/IoE developers, such as IBM, is currently considering how to employ blockchain to document all IoT objects. ● Humanities students could turn physical art installations into IoTs, and assign a hash value to the IoTs. ● They can store both IoT and virtual object hash values on a single, private blockchain. ● Certain virtual objects are far too big in size to be stored on a blockchain (as a single block usually carries about 20 bytes of data without embed); it is possible to store virtual objects on a Distributed Hash Table (DHT), a type of peer-to-peer network, and use hash values to reference to the blockchain as proof of ownership.
  41. 41. PanelViewpoints4: ClosingThoughtson Blockchaininthe Humanities
  42. 42. Presentationby: Sherry Jones Philosopher | Educator | Game Designer Access Slides