A three-year digital strategy initiative by 221A that researches, develops sectoral capacity, and implements blockchain technology for cultural, social and ecological use-cases. Blockchain technology will be the next layer of the internet, connecting data and information to new forms of mutually-agreed value. Seen as a new institutional technology, the blockchain could potentially be as crucial as electricity and the internet itself. The programming is based on distributed ledger cryptography, never stored in one central reserve, but replicated and simultaneously updated across networks of server nodes. These distributed systems provide transparency as well as security for transactions and value recognition on the peer-to-peer scale, without mediating authority from third-party and legacy institutions.



Phase 1, Research – February 2019–March 2020

Phase 2, Development – April 2020–December 2020

Phase 3, Implementation – January 2021–February 2022

Initiative Objectives

221A acts as an umbrella for a diverse community, through an artistic program of research fellowships and infrastructure development, across Art and Design, as well as operating over 80 studio and cultural-use spaces across five facilities. With this Organizational context, Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks has three objectives. The first: implement the development of new infrastructures, through 221A’s fellows that are inclusive of financial, cultural, ecological, social and geographic use cases made possible through blockchain technologies. The second: research and develop advancements to 221A’s operating systems that will better enable the Organization to manage a program comprised of an international network of Fellows, Researchers and Commissions, and a portfolio of cultural services. The goal is to increase equity and benefit to all stakeholders and users. The third: share research across sectors, the nonprofit, cultural and educational, to connect blockchain development, with an emphasis on knowledge production and best practices for resource recommoning, intellectual rights, and the distribution and security of digital and physical assets.

Design Identity

Developed by Lead Designer, Christy Nyiri, the identity starts with the typeface Standard by Benoît Bodhuin, letterforms are modified to create a square B, and to emphasize chain-like structures in other characters. The rigid, grid-spaced letters combine and contrast with a variable-width ampersand to create a dynamic wordmark that can be arranged to fit a variety of spaces, and the ampersand’s fluid lines inspire graphic treatments in page layouts. See More

Phase 1 Research Report expected Autumn 2020. Editorially Directed by Rosemary Heather

Peer Learning Network

Blockchains & Cultural Padlocks initiates a national peer learning network of cultural, nonprofit and educational organizations who receive Initiatives news, research updates and the advice and encouragement about how to enter the blockchain space. As part of this network, organizations will share ideas and content, and this serves as a forum for conversations about the implications of blockchain technology within our work.

More details soon. Contact hello@221a.ca for updates.

The peer learning network commits to exploring blockchain technology in order to achieve data equity. Together the network commits:

  • To create a sector that is sustainable for artists, designers, and cultural workers, within healthy communities
  • To identify and support new technology that empowers cultural and nonprofit institutions to have autonomy and increases their ability to contribute to, and be responsive with their neighbourhoods.
  • To create a roadmap that brings arts and culture to the forefront of the blockchain development community around new technologies
  • To leverage the collective community to bring opportunity for new technology access and development

Phase 1 Research

A research cluster is gathered for a year to engage professionals across sectors: culture, design, tech, geography, urbanism, architecture and finance (both for-profit and co-operative/credit union). This establishes a knowledge bank with a values-based learning culture about the emergence of blockchain, its potential for the nonprofit sector; social and cultural organization use-cases on the blockchain; as well as digital urbanism, smart buildings, and platforms to manage shared cultural assets. The initiative is underwritten with the directive of considering equity based approaches and developing cosmological, ethical, social, cultural and moral perspectives of this speculative technology.

Aggregating knowledge from the tech sector with regards to the social power of incentivization and the recommoning of resources, will shape the theoretical, social and critical analysis of blockchain technology’s potential within an earth future of climate collapse, economic exhaustion, decolonization, and the political spectrums of decentralization and data sovereignty. Further, studying blockchain urbanism will provide planning towards the social and cultural-use integration for the of assets, land and facilities management within the blockchain. The returns of surveying cultural workers, tech workers, and theorists about blockchain technology, will provide essential policy guidance and analytical writing published as a report in early 2020.

Research Cluster

221A Staff will guide the project vision, coordinate the research cluster, coordinate meetings, deadlines and deliver research outcomes.

Contractors, such as the Editorial Director and the Consultant, provide multi-sector strategic planning, networking, dissemination and support the achievement of core deliverables. Contractors bring industry knowledge and skills in capacity building, with leadership in the Finance, Technology and Culture sectors.

The Advisory meets quarterly to review and criticize the research cluster’s work, and they advise on decision-making, regulation, policy, and project targets for future development.

Associates contribute to research through collaborations that generate knowledge broaden thinking, and share skills.

Principal Researchers: invite associates, gather research materials, propose areas of study, synthesize knowledge, and produce long-form texts, feasibility studies, white papers, and other forms of content.

Artist Researchers Artists will research instances of cultural production that would lend themselves to developing blockchain use-cases. The Artistic research will also provide theoretical, ethical, and moral perspectives around the emergence of the technology.

Partners will deliver development research around platform mapping and modeling, as well as advising on systems engineering needs for subsequent phases.  Also working in education and dissemination, partnerships develop content for broader distribution at events, academic initiatives and through digital platforms.

Advisory Group Meeting 2, May 22, 2019. From left: Scott Nelson, Ross Gentleman, Victoria Lemieux, Jesse McKee, Geoffrey Routledge, Courtenay Mayes