Digital Art on the Blockchain

— This course offers a critical introduction to the phenomenon of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. NFTs have come to be associated most prominently with digital art and collectibles—to say nothing of scam artists and pyramid schemes—but the various token standards captured by the term enable a wide range of functionalities beyond mere ownership of assets, with uses in recordkeeping, credentialing, and cultural areas such as gaming and social networking. To better understand these functions, students will be offered a two-pronged approach of studying cryptocurrency as a cultural technology and minting their own digital artworks on the blockchain. We will cover how various distributed ledgers operate, how digital coins circulate, and what the difference is between digital coins and NFTs. We will have conversations with digital artists in the NFT space and discuss how these new assets disrupt traditional hierarchies and open possibilities for underrepresented creators to take control of their work. Students will also learn the tools to mint their own NFTs, with workshops to help even nonartists generate an artwork and all digital coins fully provided with course registration. The course is co-taught by Jimmy Joe Roche, a multimedia artist with work in NFTs, and Kyle Stine, a media scholar with research in new media and internet art. 

For a window into our approach, check out the Archaeology of an NFT assignment from my Cultural History of the Internet class.