'Effing' the ineffable: Opening up understandings of the blockchain

Deborah Maxwell, Christopher Speed, Dug Campbell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Blockchain, an innovative public ledger of transactions that underpins digital currencies such as Bitcoin, has the potential to open up and offer radical alternatives to civic life, democracy and society. Yet there is currently only a small, technically savvy section of society who understand its principles. Therefore in order to work through and realize the potential of the blockchain and its transferability across society we need to find means to open up and reduce its 'ineffable' nature. This paper presents and reflects on an approach that made the complexity of the blockchain understandable or 'effable' using physical modeling. The design-based approach adopted a tangible system of Lego and colored stickers to allow participant-actors to physically enact transactions on a Blockchain Lego 'block'. This modeled simplification was not designed as a comprehensive or accurate explanation of Bitcoin and Blockchain but rather as a prompt for opening up rich dialogue and insightful lines of questioning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2015 British HCI Conference
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-3643-7
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2015


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  • Design in Action

    Biggs, S., Maxwell, D. & Speed, C.



    Project: Research

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