Symposium: The value of blockchains for the media industries


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Tallinn University’s Baltic Film, Media and Arts School will organise a symposium to investigate both the existing visions for and the real-world endeavours and practices of using blockchains in the media and cultural industries. The symposium, which will take place on 23–24 May (in Tallinn), invites empirical as well as theoretical contributions that focus on the value of blockchains as specific technologies for data governance in the media industries. What value is being pursued/sought, who is creating value, who is extracting it and who is governing the exchange of that created value?

The symposium’s keynote talk will be provided by Professor Ellie Rennie (RMIT University) and select industry experts.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is February 15th. Decisions will be communicated back to authors by February 28th.

Abstract submission: https://publicvalueofdata.tlu.ee/submission/

All presenters will be invited to submit their papers to the special issue of the Baltic Screen Media Review that will be published at the end of 2024.

Participation fee: 80 euros. 

More information about the symposium: https://publicvalueofdata.tlu.ee/symposium/ 

The perceived and experienced value of blockchains for the media industries

While the expectations for blockchains are sometimes downplayed, these technologies are often also highly promoted. In the upcoming symposium, we will therefore be interested in the evidence of real contexts of technology development – where are the normative discourses coming from, why are experiments being carried out, what are their actual results, what are the gains and what are the emerging problems? While we are interested in critical takes, we are also genuinely interested in the opportunities that these technologies have provided. That is, we are interested in exploring their claimed transformative potential in the media industries, including in relation to enhancing transparency, efficiency and security across various operations. Amid the centralising tendencies of Web 2.0 platforms, the potential of blockchains to democratise and decentralise market dynamics on the Internet towards “Web3” needs careful attention.

When it comes to practical uses, then, first, blockchain technology is claimed to hold significant potential for content authentication and copyright management. It employs digital fingerprinting to establish ownership records, aiming to reduce piracy and unauthorized content use. This is seen as crucial in an environment where intellectual property rights are frequently contested. Smart contracts in blockchain promise more equitable, efficient and transparent royalty distribution, automating payments and reducing dependence on intermediaries.

Second, blockchains can open avenues for direct content monetisation and audience engagement. Creators can use blockchains for direct sales and micro-transactions, bypassing conventional distribution channels and thereby fostering closer audience connections. This approach could democratise media access and create a more diverse media landscape. Another often-seen benefit is blockchain’s ability to combat fake news through immutable records, thereby enhancing media source credibility and reliability.

In essence, blockchain’s decentralised nature has been celebrated for not only fortifying security against data breaches but also promoting a more democratic and equitable media industry. It is argued to empower creators, reward audience participation and ensure integrity in content dissemination and monetisation. This technology is often seen not just as a tool for operational improvement but as a catalyst for a more transparent, more efficient and more user-centric media ecosystem.

The risks of blockchains for the media industries

Yet, incorporating blockchain technology into the media industries, while promising, comes with its own set of risks and challenges. On the technical side, one of the often addressed practical concerns is the complexity and scalability of blockchain systems. Implementing such technology requires significant investment, in terms of both financial resources and expertise. This complexity extends to the regulatory environment, which remains in a state of flux. Media firms venturing into blockchain must navigate a landscape filled with legal uncertainties, especially concerning copyright laws, data protection and financial regulations related to cryptocurrencies.

Significantly, the decentralised approach of blockchain might also pose challenges for traditional media business models, which rely on centralised control for content management and monetisation. Furthermore, if media companies incorporate cryptocurrencies into their business models, they expose themselves and their partners to the notorious volatility of these digital assets, which can significantly impact financial stability and revenue projections. With cryptocurrencies also comes the risk that early investors could gain a significant hold over relevant currencies and other assets, thus undoing the promise of greater decentralisation and fairer wealth distribution.

Paper topics

All these factors collectively highlight the need for a cautious and well-informed approach to integrating blockchain technologies in the media sector. Hence, we are inviting papers that critically examine the above-mentioned phenomena, addressing both the risks and the opportunities. As the implementation of blockchains in the media industries assumes knowledge from multiple domains, we are inviting and encouraging submissions from those in the fields of media and communications studies, computer science, law, economics, management, public administration and related fields. The papers could focus on any of the following (non-exhaustive) set of topics:

• transparency and accountability: papers investigating how blockchains can enhance transparency in media production and distribution, and their impact on accountability within the media industries;

• content authentication and copyright protection: papers exploring the role of blockchains in the governance of intellectual property rights;

• monetisation and micro-transactions: papers analysing blockchain-based monetisation schemes in the media industries, including micro-transactions and direct artist-to-audience revenue models;

• data privacy and consumer protection: papers examining the implications of blockchains on data privacy and their potential role in safeguarding consumer information;

• ethical implications of blockchain technology in media industries: papers discussing the ethical uses of blockchains in content creation and distribution;

• decentralisation of media platforms: papers assessing the cultural and economic impact of blockchain-based distributed social networks and content platforms;

• impact on advertising models: papers investigating how blockchains can transform advertising models in media, particularly in terms of transparency, efficiency and fraud;

• tokenisation of media assets: papers exploring the implications of tokenising media assets (like films, music, books) on the industry, including issues related to ownership and trade;

• blockchains in journalism: papers delving into the use of blockchains in journalism, addressing issues like source verification, combating fake news and ensuring ethical reporting;

• regulatory and legal challenges: papers analysing the legal and regulatory hurdles and pathways towards implementing blockchains in the media industries;

• global accessibility and inclusivity: papers considering how blockchains are implemented in different cultural and economic contexts and/or what their effects are on global inclusiveness and accessibility of content;

• innovation in content delivery models: papers exploring innovative content delivery models enabled by blockchains, such as decentralised streaming;

• blockchains and audience engagement: papers assessing how blockchain technology can be used to enhance audience engagement and participation in media production and curation;

• future of the Internet: papers theorising the role of blockchains in the future iterations of the Internet (metaverse, Web3) and what these bring about for contemporary media industries;

• blockchains and wealth distribution: papers assessing critically the effects of blockchains on wealth distribution in media and cultural industries.

More information about the symposium can be found here: https://publicvalueofdata.tlu.ee/symposium/