By Fiona Delaney
The team from Origin Chain Networks, Irish Modern Dance Theatre, BlockW, Irish Computer Society and Irish Tech Week 2020 were technologists turned tutors for the ‘Tracing the Steps’ workshop. The inverse of our audience – who are all educators incorporating tech into their classrooms. We had a lot in common, finding resonances between the performance excerpts and the classroom – and programming interfaces when <boom> it all blows up!
We sought to introduce fundamental concepts about blockchain technology to our audience of educators who use digital technology in the classroom. It was a workshop hosted by CESI Conference, in Athlone IT on a sleety, stormy 29th February.
What is a blockchain?
It is a distributed ledger technology that keeps reliable and secure digital data transaction records. How is that different to a regular ledger? If we think about a ledger, its a book of records, about business processes, stuff like orders and sales.
In a blockchain, however, we don’t just have a business process, we have a network of peers. Together this network can expedite the terms of their co-operation, and track progress in a chronological ‘chain’ of data – repeated across the network where every participant can verify or reject it given the agreed consensus model.
A blockchain crowd-sources community oversight and requires that community to verify transactions in a time-stamped, tamper-resistant, and immutable way. That is why its been called The Trust Machine, or the Trust Layer of the Internet.
And so we encounter other ideas, common to all systems and architectures… security, resilience, performance. How does a blockchain relate to this computing world?
Automation is important: The Blockchain is programmable making it possible to automate predictable, if ..else processes. Self-executing agreements on the blockchain – are called Smart contracts – they automatically trigger actions once conditions are met. Eg. Our audience is here – let the show begin.
Sometimes, smart contracts will require real-time information, to trigger an event – GPS data, the value of the Euro at a given point in time.
That day, our lovely audience provided an oracle service – asked to provide the variables that made the performance work: When Kevin asked ‘How do you want me to run?’ That was their chance.
And so to consensus
Two performers shouting – who will win? Is that all that’s happening? No, we were engaged, watching, leading the process to that point. We were a network of peers. We captured the data (images and video) – that validated how this workshop happened, this way, in this place, at this time with these people. We were the witnesses and we created a public record of what happened.
A blockchain is a working process. It has moving parts – blocks formed and finalised in sequence – and requires consensus. Consensus takes work. Somebody, somewhere is responsible for carrying out the work.
That day it was us!
Posting on the public blockchain
We’ve used the process of social sharing – to gather input and after a little back-end magic, we posted the record to our webpage www.tech4communities.com/tracing-the-steps/ where we’ve created a permanent public record of the content on the blockchain using WordProof.io a blockchain-based plug-in that allows users to verify online content and publishers to combat content theft.
The audience was invited to participate with words, suggestions and the phenomenon of social sharing to create an online digital record of this event and we’ll publish it to the public blockchain. By using the #TracingTheSteps hashtag and we tracked the posts and published links to the posts on our webpage at https://tech4communities.com/tracing-the-steps/ website where the webpage is timestamped on the public EOS blockchain.
You can verify the timestamp by clicking on the little green square at the bottom of the content.
Innovation in tech education
The approach we’ve taken with this workshop was an innovative intervention in tech education in general.
The openness of the initial approach from Joyce O’Connor at BlockW and the trust in our proposal by our sponsor Mary Cleary from ICS and Irish Tech Week were instrumental. The opportunity to work alongside John Scott with Kevin and Mufutau from IMDT was a wonderful, thought-provoking and powerful experience.
Our audience-participants were curious and challenged, at times ‘at a loss for words’ and it was clear from conversations during the Q&A and afterwards, that many were encouraged towards new ideas and collaborations in their own pedagogy practice eg an intro to Scratch (programming for young learners platform) through hip-hop and Irish dancing: variables, pattern-making, repetition, synchronization. John Scott has found a new audience for his own work and contemporary dance through the presentation. These outcomes are substantial and exciting.
While some of our audience actively participated on the day – making bold statements and taking actions, many others accepted our invitation to share their digital artefacts over social channels. Interestingly these are for the most part video, not still images. I think this is an interesting insight into natural response to the perceived requirements of dance documentation.
The whole process has been a hugely positive working experience. Staging something as experimental as this in a tech conference context takes a real team effort.
Congratulations and thanks again to everyone involved. So many thanks to every one of you for your role in bringing the ‘Tracing the Steps ‘ workshop together.
Fiona Delaney, CEO, Origin Chain Networks.