Can smart contracts learn from digital rights management?

My article Can Smart Contracts Learn from Digital Rights Management? appears in the March 2020 issue of IEEE Technology & Society Magazine. I actually wrote the article a couple of years ago but it took a little while for it to reach publication due to some mis-communication between the magazine and I. Still, I hope the article remains as topical as it was then.

It’s the first academic article I’ve published for quite a while, having worked in software development and teaching-oriented positions for the past ten years. Even though I’ve written mostly about my fiction writing since starting this blog, I hope to continue academic writing as well, and maybe my position at Western Sydney University (and maybe even A Little Research) will lend itself to such writing to a greater degree than my other positions over the past ten years. Still, I’m no longer working as a researcher full-time, so I expect it’ll be slow going.

The topic of the article is more like something that would have appeared on my old blog, which questioned what I had come to think of as “computer nerd orthodoxy” on subjects like copyright, privacy, internet economics, and other points at which technology intersected with society. I was inspired to write the new article after reading about smart contracts in a Conversation article at the beginning of 2017 and recognising smart contracts as eerily to similar to digital rights management, in which I have carried out of most of my academic research and on which I’ve written numerous blog posts and on-line comments.

Can Smart Contracts Learn from Digital Rights Management is also the first scholarly peer-reviewed article that I’ve published on technology and society (though I’ve published a number of opinion pieces as well as curios like Science Fiction and the Economics of Utopia). As such it’s a concrete step towards something that I hoped for when I first began thinking about and researching society and technology: to be a scholar of technology as much as a technologist. I haven’t been thinking a lot about that dream while I’ve been working on this blog, though of course the blog itself grew out of my thinking about how technology would impact work. I don’t have any particular plans to continue this line of research and writing, but then again I didn’t plan to write about smart contracts either back in 2017.

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