Spreading the Wings of Encounter: Benyamin Attends the UK’s First Academic Conference on NFTs

Benyamin Ahmed

It might seem like the NFT and web3 space is suffering from conference overload. There’s a new event happening daily. Ultimately this is good for the space as it helps sustain community and IRL events foster friendship, although it may lead to conference fatigue.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an event that is unique in the NFT space. OxBAT organised by the Department of Anthropology and Computer Science at the University of Oxford describes itself as:

The first multi-disciplinary conference on the aesthetic, social, and anthropological perspectives on blockchain art in Oxford, it will bring together social scientists, art historians, artists, curators, blockchain developers, and others in an open forum.

The speaker list contained a diverse mix of academics, researchers, developers and artists with the aim:

...to be a melting pot for ideas, discussions and innovation, influencing how the NFT space as blockchain art is perceived today and creating the foundation for its future development.

The programme included a broad range of topics providing a pragmatic and at times a much-needed critical look at the current trajectory of the NFT space.

Some of the topics included:

  • Getting the message across? How web3 will change political campaigning and framing by Eva Jovanova

  • Decentralised Surveillance by Matteo Messina

  • Scams and brands - where is the utopian ideal in art NFTs by Alexia Maddox and Naomi Smith

  • The rise, fall, and rise again of synchronised experience by Joshua S. Bamford.

Conference Agenda
Conference Agenda

I attended on the 28th and spoke about Avatars and Community Building. The event was held at the historic Magdalen College.

Benyamin with Conference Organiser Joshua S. Bamford, Magdalen College, Dining Hall
Benyamin with Conference Organiser Joshua S. Bamford, Magdalen College, Dining Hall

I thoroughly enjoyed the talks I attended and look forward to catching up with the others online. I was impressed with the cross-disciplinary approach of the conference. It’s common in Oxford to come across engineers that are also well versed in the humanities, for example, I met a blockchain engineer that had studied Ethics.

As one of the attendees commented:

You can't understand the success of technical products by relying on Maths, Computer Science and the hard sciences alone, although those are critical. Whether that's web2 products like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or the emerging web3 space, you need a deep understanding of the societal impact of these technologies and for this we need to revert to the humanities and soft sciences.

Benyamin Ahmed Speaking at Magdalen College, University of Oxford
Benyamin Ahmed Speaking at Magdalen College, University of Oxford

It’s this cross-disciplinary academic approach away from commercialisation that makes the Oxford OxBAT Conference completely unique in the web3 space.

Conference fatigue or not, OxBAT should be a permanent fixture in your NFT calendar if you are serious about building in this space, and remaining at the cutting-edge of unbiased research and thought.

Follow me on Twitter as I continue to venture down the rabbit hole.

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