Chris Speed, Chair of Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Evolution House, 78 Westport, Edinburgh, EH1 2LE, email@example.com, chrisspeed.net, designinformatics.org
City dashboards are typically representations of a city’s accounts, manifest according to values set by the stakeholders. The currency of the data within a dashboard is typically reduced to an assessment of the performance of services largely derived from quantitative sources. As a consequence, dashboards cannot describe many of the transactions that take place between people, nor can they make explicit the values that are brokered between the myriad of city occupants. Whilst such information displays may be useful for mayors to report on the performance of a local government, or use it to set targets that lead to penalties or bonuses, the city dwellers that are complicit in the production of data are not able to convert the information back into a currency that can inform their actions and transactions.
This paper explores the barriers that current representations of data present for building new currencies through which value may be mediated at the level of the city dweller. By reflecting on the potential of technologies such as a ‘block chain', the paper asks: if you change the representation of value, can it change the values that you can represent?
The blockchain is a public ledger of all of the transactions that have ever taken place using the Bitcoin currency. The ledger is constantly growing in a linear manner as ‘blocks’ are completed through the recording of transactions. A copy of the blockchain exists not in one place like the transactions of a traditional bank, but across the network of nodes in the Bitcoin system. This decentralised framework offers not only a form of transparency to prevent fraud but also a potential platform through which different values can be represented.
This paper speculates on the implications for the city of the near future as services begin to adopt blockchain technology. The paper reflects on the activities of the technology startup community who have an understanding of the principles of blockchain technologies through their adoption of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Via studies of various applications of blockchain technology across these groups, the paper will examine how emerging practices could transform our existing conceptions of value and money. The paper foresees the opportunities for the blockchain to change the way that value flows across the city, and hence lead to new economic and social models for city services.