About the Course

Welcome! We created this class as the world’s first credit-bearing college course on NFTs. Through Brown University’s GISP program, we created and led a fully student-run class focusing exploring NFTs, the blockchain, and visual art during the Spring 2022 semester. Rather than just focusing on solely blockchain technicals, our goal was to create a course as interdisciplinary and open to all as possible. There’s no prior prerequisite knowledge needed, just a need to be willing to explore NFTs and crypto from a variety of angles and perspectives.

On this site, you’ll find the full, annotated syllabus from the course with complementing guiding questions, assignment ideas, and more. In addition, we’ve included a section of advice if you’re interested in launching your own course at your school. It works best on a computer, but should be mobile-friendly as well.

We hope you find this to be a useful launching point to exploring the new world of NFTs, and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out at:

ally_zhu (at) alumni (dot) brown (dot) edu

nikolas_lazar (at) alumni (dot) brown (dot) edu

This course was created by Ally and Nikolas independently of any student organizations, departments, or other entities at Brown University or elsewhere. Any views expressed by other Brown organizations don’t reflect our or the class’s view and vice versa. If you’d like to use content from this site, please just cite + link back to it (:

<aside> ⛓️ Table of Contents

<aside> 📃 Introduction


<aside> 🎯 Learning Goals and Disciplines


<aside> 📚 Syllabus


<aside> ❓ Reflections, Learnings and Tips





NFTs, as of writing in Summer 2022, are undergoing one of its biggest reckonings yet. Market prices are dropping like stones and with it, public conviction in this once potentially revolutionary technology. In the midst of this, we must ask ourselves: what really are NFTs and blockchain technology solving, and is it worth it?

We created this course over the Summer of 2021, when NFTs were disrupting the tech and art world. The juxtaposition of the crypto scene just a year apart makes a closer examination all the more important. Are NFTs, and blockchain technologies more broadly, a new economic and cultural force, or merely a short term fad?

As adoption and development of blockchain technology continues to grow, there is much debate as to where NFTs fit in the blockchain’s future. We seek to understand this primarily, although not exclusively, through the lens of NFT art. We also explore further use cases and broadly at web3 technologies beyond NFTs.

NFTs could prove to be a lasting social and economic technology as the world continues to pursue digital value creation. Alternatively, NFTs could fade into oblivion, while other blockchain technologies bring web3 into maturity. Or, the blockchain itself may be passed over for the next big thing. All of this relies not just on the promise of what blockchain technology can do, but the political, social, and economic context that becomes embedded into it. This class hopes to give participants the ability to develop their own viewpoints and perspectives on this budding technology’s future.

Class Learning Goals and Disciplines:

We had four primary goals for the class:

<aside> 📖 1) To better understand the socio-economic, political, and technological rise of blockchain technology and NFTs, and for the latter, their purpose, and what they do (and don’t do) for the art world

  1. To consider historical precedents and factors in order to create informed predictions about the future of NFTs

  2. To develop a better understanding of the cyber and hacker cultures that surround blockchain technology and its applications

  3. Develop a nuanced perspective on the future of NFTs, the blockchain, and affiliated technologies


Our focus is not limited to a uniform academic field, but rather where NFTs and blockchain more broadly sit at the intersection of computer science, economics, art history, and politics. Through the lens of NFTs, we interrogate fundamental questions around who constitutes an artist, what defines art, the role of art in social movements, and more. Three key disciplines form the foundations of this class:

<aside> 🖥️ 1)  Through the lens of Computer Science, we explore the fundamentals of blockchain, how NFTs are made, and potentially make our own. What are NFTs? ****What is the process of minting an NFT? What is a blockchain protocol? Can we create our own? What are the differences between varying consensus mechanisms? What are the environmental sustainability concerns with current blockchain protocols, and how can they be improved? What are the frontiers in NFT applications and use cases? What are the limitations and risks associated with NFTs? What will it take for NFTs, and blockchain technology in general, to scale for wide adoption?


<aside> 🎨 2) Through the lens of Art History and the Visual Arts, we investigate what NFTs do for the art industry.  What is the purpose of NFTs? How have forms of art changed? What are the new capabilities that NFTs give artists? Do NFTs actually “democratize” art? What does democratization even mean? Is it for the empowerment of creators or consumers? Do NFTs dismantle or reinforce the “art gallery industrial complex”? Does it increase accessibility to art?


<aside> 📈 3) Through the lens of Economics, we interrogate what gives NFTs value. What socio-economic phenomena have led to the rise of NFTs? What gives digital art on the blockchain its value, especially in relation to physical art? How has art been valued traditionally? Have NFTs changed that valuation model, and if so, how? How do NFTs tie into fundamental concepts of scarcity, supply, and demand? Do NFTs help democratize investing or do they only help already-wealthy art investors? What is the future of NFTs as a financial asset? Can NFTs help empower creators to capitalize on their work?