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Cover image for Reflecting on my Initial NFT Research and Applications of NFTs Around Open Education and Freely Accessible Culture
Erica Hargreave
Erica Hargreave

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Reflecting on my Initial NFT Research and Applications of NFTs Around Open Education and Freely Accessible Culture

Hello Everyone and Thank You!

As some of you may be aware, I began some rabbit hole diving into the world of NFTs in the past week, in part as I've been meaning to learn more, in part for the Sustainable Funding Series, in part for our own projects, and in part for a Masters assignment. The latter of which I used to spark myself into action. Happily went to sleep last night after discovering I'd received 100% on that Masters assignment, along with an inquiry as to whether I'd consider a PhD further investigating the topic. So thank you, as you have all been a big part of that research, both here in the community with @radhyr 's discussion, @jfarkas ' talk, @victoriac 's resource sharing, @casey_herd 's feedback and nudges to other conversations, and @gfam 's patience as I wrapped my head around everything, along with joining me in a live discussion on.

At any rate, here are some of the pieces that I built for that assignment:

The Preliminary Discussion as I Wrapped my Head Around Everything

The Article in which I Start to Make Connections in my Head (aka the actual assignment)

NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) – A Sustainable Funding Solution for Open Education and Open Culture?

Reading of the Above Article and Live Discussion on Fireside

NFTs - A Sustainable Funding Solution for OpenEd?

Thanks again for everyone's help!


Image in the header, care of Marco Verch via Flickr.

Discussion (11)

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jfarkas profile image
Janos Farkas • Edited on

Erica,

There are many loaded questions in your linked post questioning NFT for Sustainable Funding Solutions. My reflections would be longer than the post itself if I’d respond to all. So let me focus on addressing your question stated in the tile. I felt it is more important to respond here at our community than at the original post.

As background, I would like to provide a clarification on the definition of NFT. Tokens that are non-fungible have been used in commerce for centuries. See Section 1 of papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?ab.... Few of those tokens for example - listed in the cited reference - are negotiable instruments, securities, deeds of real property, bills of lading, certificate of tile for automobiles. (Please note that there are well-established legal frameworks around those tokens.) 


The term NFT has been “revived” by the Ethereum ERC-721 Standard and now the term is used also on other ledgers and marketplaces. NFT is unique, but NOT the asset it is linked to. This has been the crux of major confusions around NFT. The video “Applying Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in education” - you have inserted – highlights this confusion and misunderstanding. Starting at 55s it makes a series of statements staring with:

"(i) it can be a song, (ii) it can be a book, a message, (iii) it can be even a Tweet, (iv) it can even be a certificate from famous institution or a diploma from a top university"

Those statements are simply incorrect. Let me cite another scholarly article for the explanation papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?ab...

"When someone is purchasing an NFT, they are purchasing the metadata file, and as a non-fungible token, this is transferrable as well. Some people have therefore compared NFTs with a signed copy of a work, which is somewhat inaccurate as the NFT is not a copy itself, it’s more like a signed receipt of a work, where the ownership is not of the work itself, but it’s ownership of the receipt."

The key takeaway from that paragraph “the ownership is not of the work itself”, so it is NOT a song, a book, a message, or a Tweet as the video erroneously states. See also section “What do NFTs represent?” at copyrightblog.kluweriplaw.com/2021...

This leads to the question: can an NFT represent the content/asset? For example, can it replace a certificate title of an automobile?

Certificate of title imprints the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the automobile. VIN is unique to the vehicle and can be verified from third party sources. In other words, VIN provides a verifiable reference. This is not the case for the majority NFTs using Ethereum ERC721 tokens. Those link the content/asset by a “breakable” URL. There are multiple reasons why that URL is breakable. The most obvious one is that the ERC721 spec allows changing the URL after the token is minted by the function (_setTokenURI(tokenId, newTokenURI). See github.com/0xcert/ethereum-erc721/... at line 110 in the ERC 721 reference implementation.
In summary NFT cannot be considered as a verifiable “certificate of ownership” for a content/asset.

Trust can serve as a form of “reference”, however if it is unsupported the participants are exposed to scams, frauds, and harms. (Especially, because no legal framework around NFT has been established.)

IMO the NFT ecosystem today is based on unsubstantiated trust due to - most importantly - the lack of verifiable reference between the token and the content/asset. Is there a fix? Sure.

In conclusion, I would shy away from NFT in its current status for Sustainable Funding Solutions.

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ericahargreave profile image
Erica Hargreave Author

Thanks for your thorough response, @jfarkas . You touch on a number of my concerns and areas of ambiguity that I was discovering in my search to interpreting NFTs. I'll update the post accordingly, and remove the video of Studyum's.

In terms of the question of 'Sustainable Funding Solution', that's the title to a series we've been working on around exploring the various different funding solutions that creators are utilising to build the funding models behind their projects. The reality is that to date, we have not found one singular sustainable funding solution, but rather most creators need a combination of a variety of different funding solutions, and different funding solutions work for different projects.

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jfarkas profile image
Janos Farkas • Edited on

@ericahargreave I am aware and feel the pain about the lack of options for 'Sustainable Funding Solution'. We are working on an option and aiming to have that available in a reasonable future.

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ericahargreave profile image
Erica Hargreave Author

I shall be excited to experiment with that option, once you come out with it.

I've also updated the post incorporating your feedback.

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radhyr profile image
Radhy

Apparently interest in NFT in the community is quite high looking from more active discussions than other topics. Perhaps we'll see more GftW funded Interledger + NFT projects in the future. 🤔

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jfarkas profile image
Janos Farkas

Radhy,

I see "misalignment" between NFT and ILP. NFT is a product of public blockchain(s) which tend to stipulate or at least favor their crypto currency. In contrast ILP is an interoperable payment system that is agnostic to currencies (and that is the "beauty" of it). So why ILP would endorse an NFT project that favors their crypto currency?

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radhyr profile image
Radhy • Edited on

I didn't mean for GftW to fund NFT projects strictly that ILP to endorse NFT. Just saying that since the community members have interest on NFT we could see more GftW projects expand to experiment on NFT space. There are a few grantees that do that already.

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ericahargreave profile image
Erica Hargreave Author

Yeah, it has certainly become a hot topic in this community as of late. Either that or you and I are just noticing the conversations more as we take interest in the topic.

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radhyr profile image
Radhy

Yup. That's what I thought 🤔

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chrislarry profile image
Chris Lawrence

Cranky guy alert. Count me as a skeptic here, and if I am honest, a little frustrated by how much oxygen NFTs are taking up in this space (broadly not the WM Forem)

It just seems like the easiest thing to explain quickly and thus has sort of caught fire and acts like proxy for everything having to do with new business models on the web, dweb etc. I appreciated @jfarkas nuanced critique and solutions in his skill share.

I would like to be proven wrong, and I like that thoughtful people in this community are having better conversations around NFTs then I see other places.

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ericahargreave profile image
Erica Hargreave Author • Edited on

I hear you, @chrislarry . I'm skeptical too and still have issues around the potential NFTs have to increase classism and barriers on the web. Having said that, I also see little downside to running an experiment or two around one of our projects that is aimed at social good. And even if the current craze is short lived, if that experiment or two helps to fund something that does good in this world of ours, then hey, that's a good thing. And if I am unsuccessful in the experiment, then at least I have learned something in the process that I can share with the community.