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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Bennington

Bitcoin, Block-Chains, and the Network of Tae Kwon Do

Last week I recounted the Digital Humanities field trip to USF's Advanced Visualization Center as a way to continue the conversation on 3D printing, VR, AR and other methods of mixing the digital with the material. As a follow-up, I'd like to introduce you all to my very first 3D print job--Fuchsia Bruce!

Weighing in at 13 grams, standing at 4 inches tall, Fuchsia Bruce still packs more of a wallop than I probably ever will!

This week, however, my class found itself back in the classroom to discuss Cryptocurrency and the underlying intellectual schematics at play in these technologies. Greenfield (2017) does a WAY better job than I ever could explaining the fundamentals of Bitcoin, so if that's something that sincerely interests you (I wasn't that interested until I read his chapter if I'm being honest) then please check out Radical Technologies. Here's a brief list of the major takeaways:

  • Bitcoin isn't a coin, it's kept in wallets that aren't wallets, there is no spoon. Essentially, despite all the metaphors, Bitcoin is nothing but strings of code that demarcate discrete transactions.

  • Each Bitcoin has a unique code associated with it meaning that every unit can be traced through its entire transactional history

  • Similarly, every Bitcoin user has a unique code acting as their pseudonym. Importantly, Bitcoin is often (or was) described as being anonymous, but that's not entirely true.

  • Each individual transaction is encoded with a one-of-a-kind digital fingerprint. This ensures that the same Bitcoin can't be "double spent" and it aids in the process of keeping track of the entire network's transactional history.

  • There is no central institution acting as a "mint" (think of a traditional bank or national government). Instead, a new Bitcoin is routinely produced, automatically, by the network in response to an individual user who validates the most up-to-date transactional history (referred to as the ledger).

  • Unlike traditional institutions, this ledger is shared information among the network. This means that no one party can control, manipulate, or arbitrarily police this ledger for personal gain (theoretically).

This last bit, I think, is the big takeaway worth focusing on. Bitcoin popularized the distributed workflow approach now referred to as a "block chain." For every transaction, users across the network compete to see who can verify the transaction history first--the winner receives monetary compensation in the form of Bitcoin. This is the way Bitcoin can remain decentralized and separate from a singular governing institution. And even though Bitcoin is, for all intents and purposes, a failed currency alternative, this block chain workflow is radically changing the ways major companies theorize future business models.

So, what does this mean for Tae Kwon Do? Well, in some ways, this distributed model of accountability is part of the reason Rhetorical Roundhouse exists. Originally, I was inspired by the Daoist maxim of the universe as the "many becoming one/one becoming many." In terms of this website, what that means is martial artists from around the globe can demonstrate their oneness (by uploading videos of their own taegeuk poomse performances) while simultaneously exhibiting their unique interpretation of that form.

As a nexus for Taekwondo research, Rhetorical Roundhouse is a way for the networked community of martial artists to ensure quality information is propagated and preserved. This is the kind of work that the Martial Arts Studies Research Network prides itself on and I'm happy to be a part of that.

Finally, an idea I'm still working out...I think Rhetorical Roundhouse and various Tae Kwon Do organizations can collaborate in more cutting-edge ways to ensure that the martial art be "spread to the masses." This is a phrase and a goal I've heard repeated by Masters and Grandmasters all over the country, and, yet, they may not actually be in conversation with one another. One of the future goals for Rhetorical Roundhouse is to facilitate the growth and development of a nationwide Tae Kwon Do sponsorship program and affiliate charitable organization. The details still need to be worked out, but imagine the kind of good that could be achieved if the block chain method of distributed accountability were applied to charitable endeavors.

Stay tuned for a bonus blog coming soon this week--I've been a bit sick and haven't written as much as I want to but I promise there are exciting things in the works. Thank you for reading :)


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