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

NOTE: This course was created by Ally and Nikolas independently of any student organizations, departments, or other entities at Brown University or elsewhere. We do not have any course or organization social media or other websites, and views expressed by other bodies do not reflect our or the class’s views.

<aside> ⛓️ Table of Contents

<aside> 📃 Introduction

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<aside> 🎯 Learning Goals and Disciplines

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<aside> 📚 Syllabus

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<aside> ❓ Reflections, Learnings and Tips

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Introduction

As NFTs undergo one of its biggest reckonings yet (as of writing in Summer 2022), and as market prices drop like stones and with it, public conviction in this once-upon a time paradigm-shifting technology, we must increasingly urgently ask ourselves: what really is this 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 of NFTs and the broader crypto community all the more important. Are NFTs, and web3 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 controversy as to where NFTs fit in the blockchain’s future. Understanding how NFTs interact with legacy assets, industries, and communities will be essential to developing technological, economic, and societal literacy. We do this primarily, although not exclusively, through the lens of NFT art, but also explore further use cases.

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. Understanding how blockchain applications like NFTs can be used for positive change, for example, in the democratization of art, or malicious intent, seen through hacker culture and right-wing extremist, can lead to immense internal and societal reflection and development.


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 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

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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? Can we mint our own? 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?

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