Exploring Blockchain in the Cultural Sector

Call for papers

  • Conference Date: 16 October 2020
  • Deadline for Proposals Date: 24 April 2020
  • Location: The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  • #culturalblockchain @Cultural_Block
  • Website: https://digitalheritageresearch.wordpress.com
  • Submission to be sent to: blockchainandtheculturalsector@gmail.com

Blockchain technology is often related to discussions on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Defined as a decentralised and distributed ledger technology, blockchain offers a way of exchanging tokens of value digitally while navigating the problem of the ‘double-spending’ problem without the need for an intermediary. In this respect, blockchain has been highlighted as a technology which produces trust through code, proves authenticity with provenance, and supports a more public and transparent system of exchange. But blockchain is more than a digital money infrastructure, and as Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott note, ‘blockchain technology has profound implications for many institutions’ (Tapscott and Tapscott, 2018, p. 8). 

The cultural sector is no exception, for example in the arts, the Maecenas Gallery is using blockchain to create an ‘art investment platform’ through the process of tokenisation so to fractionise ownership of masterpieces. In doing so, they aim to ensure authenticity, create a more direct payment system for buyers and sellers, and democratise the fine art market by providing a more accessible route into owning a masterpiece (Maecenas, 2018). Likewise, in the music industry, cases such as Resonate are using blockchain to develop the subscription-streaming service (Resonate, 2018a).

Their aim is to make a ‘community-owned music network’ in which users gain ownership of the music they play through the amount they stream. This ‘stream2own’ concept is built on the idea of a cooperative, where users are not just consumers, instead they become a supporting member of the resonate community (Resonate, 2018b). In archives, ARCHANGEL developed a project in collaboration with the National Archives and University of Surrey to explore how blockchain might be used to create a more open network of archives (ARCHANGEL, 2020). In using blockchain, these records are no longer kept with a central authority and the authenticity can be tracked through the technology. 

These examples highlight how blockchain technology is changing our understanding of concepts such as ownership, authenticity, authority and trust. The purpose of this one-day event is to bring together academics, PhD students, artists and practitioners from across the cultural and creative sectors who are interested in exploring how else blockchain might be implemented in these fields and address questions such as: 

  • To what extent does blockchain challenge our understanding of authenticity in the arts?
  • To what extent could blockchain embed trust and transparency into the work of the cultural sector?
  • In what ways does blockchain broaden the concept of ownership? What new and/or redeveloped models of ownership are being fostered through blockchain?
  • How might authority and authoritative structures be reconsidered in relation to blockchain?
  • How might the emerging economies and new forms of exchanges on blockchains be used in the cultural context?
  • What are the potential roles of tokens and tokenisation?
  • What new forms of value could emerge out of engaging with blockchain?

In relation to these questions, we invite proposals for 20-minute presentations, including: 

  • examples and case studies which are using blockchain to address questions above;
  • case studies which exemplify a methodology in how to explore blockchain;
  • artworks and art projects which examine and/or critique blockchain;
  • cases, art projects or methods which present blockchain in a way which is accessible to those with little to no knowledge of the technology.   

Keynote speaker

Marcus O’Dair is a musician, writer and Associate Dean of Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise at the University of Arts & Design, London. He is the author of Distributed Creativity (2018) a book on the potential impact of blockchain technology on the creative economy.

He has also contributed to edited collections including Business Transformation Through Blockchain (2019) and written insight papers for organisation such as the Blockchain Research Institute. He was also a convenor of the Blockchain for Creative Industries research cluster at the University of Middlesex and lead author of the cluster’s 2016 Music on the Blockchain report. 


Please send proposals of ca400 words to blockchainandtheculturalsector@gmail.com by 24 April 2020 (midnight, UK time). Please also include in email: 

  • full name;
  • affiliation;
  • paper title. 

Successful applicants will be notified of their acceptance by mid-May 2020 


There is no registration fee for this event. 


We hope to be able to offer a number of bursaries for partial or full coverage of travel costs (we are unable to support accommodation costs) to those presenting papers. Accepted papers will automatically be considered for this financial support. If you would like to opt-out of the bursary scheme (if you have alternative means of support), please let us know in your email. 


Those presenting papers will be invited to attend the conference dinner on the day of the event at no cost. Lunch and refreshments will additionally be provided during the event for all attendees, subject to pre-registration by the conference deadline. If you have any specific dietary requirements, please let us know about these at the point of registering and we will work to try and accommodate your needs wherever possible (there will be vegan options at both lunch and dinner). 


The event will take place at the Graduate School of the Arts, Languages and Cultures, which is in the Ellen Wilkinson Building, Main Campus, University of Manchester, M15 6JA. This building is wheel-chair accessible via ramp and lift access. If you have any other access requirements, in terms of equipment, reading materials, or any other aspect that will help facilitate your attendance and / or ability to present, please let us know either in your email, or when accepting an offer to present / registering to attend. 

Important dates

  • Deadline for proposals: 24 April 2020
  • Notification of acceptance of proposals: mid-May 2020
  • Registration opens: June 2020
  • Registration closes: 9 October 2020
  • Conference date: 16 October 2020 

Organiser and contact

Frances Liddell, PhD Student, Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester

Email: frances.liddell@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk 

The conference is supported by the AHRC through the NWCDTP Cohort Development Fund and Creative Manchester at The University of Manchester. 

Launched in 2018, Creative Manchester is a platform that strives to champion culture and creativity, nurture talent and bring educators, civic leaders and employers together, to collaborate.