Liam Murphy
Sep 8, 2017 · 6 min read


CultureBanking aims to connect people.

People who turn ideas into action. People who create intellectual property.

It aims to connect artists, creators and businesses with all services which fall within local authority precepts, including:

Allotments, bridleways, burial grounds, bus shelters, car parks, commons and open spaces, community transport schemes, community safety and crime reduction measures, events and festivals, footpaths, leisure and sports facilities, litter bins, public toilets, planning, street cleaning and lighting, tourism activities, traffic calming measures, village greens and youth projects.

All of the above have the potential to create, ‘deposit’ and to ‘withdraw’ cultural assets. Due to new technological advancements, how we store and exchange publicly interested assets is up for debate in ways never before experienced.

The need for CultureBanking is the need to acknowledge that ‘versions of culture’ need to come from somewhere; to be learned, made and distributed. In short, they come at a COST. It is also a need to acknowledge that not all ‘cultural regeneration’ solves more problems than it creates (43).

Stephen Campbell (44) has suggested:

“..Governments can (also) use crypto-currency, not only the block-chain. For example SolarCoin (45) was presented to the European Parliament. The coin incentivises the production of solar PV energy. In this sense governments can reduce their scope by handing off operations to crypto-currency. Crypto-currency can be a lot more than just pure currency, it can be used as a tool to create positive change without cost to the taxpayer. Gridcoin (46) is another example of a crypto-currency that creates positive change, as an incentive to give computer processing time to underfunded scientific projects”

In ‘reducing its scope’ though, who takes on the role of ‘governor’? Will ‘the crowd’ prove an ample replacement? Traditionally, it is the local council who, through elected members, decide about asset flows. Distributed Ledgers, Blockchains, special interest and online currencies — all offer a new means of public sector asset management — of their creation, ‘liquidation’ and distribution.

Roles may be confused as we adapt, but the productive activity should be in identifying areas of common interest. Business is already ahead of the game, increasingly offering customers a ‘license to use’ rather than a ‘price to own’ goods and services. It is only by logical deduction that taxes, public infrastructural needs etc can be met, at least in part, with transactionally raised income flows from licenses and automatically permissioned ‘trustless’ protocols in the form of self governing smart contracts and so forth. The battle lines are set, as ever, around the requirements of the public interest for open-ness and accountability and the private interests of wealth accumulation.

Still, diverse interest groups can have much in common. In the world of social media, it becomes increasingly difficult to find people and things which don’t have something in common. That ‘common lot’ is therefore something which, by methods such as digital taxation via micro-payments we are all, as a global society, going to be challenged with measuring and resourcing fairly. It is under reconsideration in many quarters and not least in the cultural sector.

The creation of new intellectual property affects all sectors. It also affects different elements of the cultural sector in profoundly different ways. The funding of ‘portfolio organisations’ and new ideas like ‘social prescribing’ or ‘cultural commissioning’ require different kinds of resourcing to artistic creation of new assets and new business growth. Still, both kinds of investment have civic roles to play — and civic roles require resourcing.

CultureBanking, as a concept, is an early iteration of an idea to re-connect our ideas and inventions — our essential human resourcefulness — to those things which we all require the use of — the public realm.

Terms like ‘Cultural Democracy, Cultural Commons and Capability’ etc referred to in new reports (47) on cultural planning are early attempts to define these ‘common interests’. (The internet itself has barely begun to define it’s ‘public sector’!…)

When considering the role for distributed ledger technology (DLT), it’s not a matter of knowing we are all interconnected but of knowing to whom we are specifically connected, in what way, when and how. This will be essential for the apportionment of finances to public realm outcomes — and for collecting them. The role of smart contracts and DLT here is crucial, even if still ill defined.

What challenges people everywhere, is to find new ways of investing in civic roles, which are responsive, immediate, un-mediated and still measurable and accountable. Enterprise is rarely best served by a need to ‘not do anything until you’ve got your manifesto and articles of association and legal form of governance sorted’. Equally, un-supported new ventures fail due to lack of investment. That’s a Catch 22. To fund individuals, without any strings attached, without evaluation, without ‘strategic’ purpose, is seen as madness (though we do it all the time, in the form of tax credits, ‘universal credits’ and other allowances). But at the same time, there is an increasing awareness that the reliance on centralised large bodies, like arts councils and others to ‘mitigate investment risk’ is failing massively to democratise access to and participation in ‘culture’ (of which, even democracy itself is a sub-set). Around these debates are matters of incentives and dis-incentives.

An incentive to register, protect and potentially trade your own intellectual property is a fundamentally empowering, fair incentive and truly democratically available to all — under current laws. So, why not introduce this incentive and its possible mechanisms into the tax system as a way of changing behaviours and financing civic roles?

At the epicentre of the needs based, centralising, public sector chimera, are taxation, venture and philanthropic (private and public) finance. At local authority level, it is the precept; at the level of arts organisations and charities in the NFP Sector, it is often trusts and foundations and in the private sector, it is the relationship of profit to taxation and the cost of sales or economic rent incurred from providing products and services and ‘SROI’.

All in all, these relationships amount to what we are increasingly calling our ‘Cultural Economy’. How we store and exchange value in it (the two basic tenets of all currencies) is how we ‘Bank’ ‘Culture’.

‘The Harrisons’, artists working by invitation on major public realm projects with an environmental scope, talk about the need to ‘sequester nutrients’ in super local environments. Essentially, nature does this through the close entanglement of tree roots. CultureBanking aims to be for local economies, what tree roots are for local retention of nutrients and ‘richness’ (48).

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Photo Kyle Ellefson

‘Culture’ — all about roots and habits

‘Banking’ — a stock of something available for use when required

From ‘CultureBanked?’ by Liam Murphy (For publication in 2018).

Discussion Points:

What’s already happening and can we grow it ‘from the ground up’?

Spreading habits; rhizomes or clumpers and what’s under the drip line..!?

By what mechanisms can we ensure appropriateness of scale in investment and cultural financing and reduce waste?

How do we currently exchange assets?

What’s in CultureBanking for artists and creators?

How can investment which is ‘banked’ be deployed at a local level without a centrally agreed ‘strategic framework’? (See Hypothecation)

If ‘strategic frameworks’ are set locally — what new roles/needs for local councils are suggested by new technological possibilities?

How can information and value be transferred into a better feedback loop to inform local planning and development?

How do we identify, recognise, reward and resource modern civic roles?

What new options will block-chains and improved ‘value-added-train’ visibility offer to civic society and how might it prepare itself?


#civicrolearts #culturebanking #justthelittlestuff! #progressiveeconomics #sharingeconomy #DLT #blockchain #culture #solarcoin #gridcoin #labourparty #forthemanynotthefew #efschumacher #theharrisonstudio #culturaldemocracy #growthhabits



44 Online discussion with Stephen Campbell; Procurement Strategy & Operations Manager at Bloomberg LP and London Met University



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