Decentralization is not a new idea. Many great thinkers stretching back to the beginning of time have thought decentralized concepts are better than the consolidation of money, governmental bodies, influence, and just general decision making.
However, it wasn’t until blockchain was created in 2008 that technology has made it possible to efficiently and effectively create decentralized entities that are changing the world.
What is Decentralization?
Decentralization is the process of shifting control from one main group to several smaller ones or individuals.
Decentralization is seen in many facets of life, i.e., business operations and corporate structures. Franchises are one example of decentralization, giving individual owners of each store the ability to make decisions. In government, decentralization is often thought of as a way to move power into the hands of individual citizens. It's the opposite of centralization, where all power and authority flow through one (single) hub.
It's also the cornerstone of distributed ledger technology, or blockchain - an immutable, secure and transparent digital ledger that records data in a peer-to-peer network.
Why Does Decentralization Matter?
Decentralization is important because it can help to distribute power and control more evenly among different parties, rather than having a single central authority that wields a disproportionate amount of influence. This can help to promote fairness and reduce the risk of abuse or corruption by a single entity.
Decentralization can also make systems more resilient and less vulnerable to disruption because there is no single point of failure that can bring the whole system down.
For example, a decentralized network of computers can continue to operate even if some of the computers in the network go offline or are attacked. This can be particularly important for critical infrastructure or services that need to be available at all times.
Decentralization can also help to promote innovation and competition, because it allows new ideas and technologies to emerge and be tested more easily, rather than being suppressed by a central authority. This can lead to more efficient and effective solutions over time.
Overall, decentralization can contribute to greater security, stability, and fairness in a variety of systems and contexts.
What Are the Benefits of Decentralization?
1. Improved fairness: Decentralization can help to distribute power and control more evenly among different parties, rather than having a single central authority that wields a disproportionate amount of influence. This can help to promote fairness and reduce the risk of abuse or corruption by a single entity.
2. Increased resilience: Decentralization can make systems more resilient and less vulnerable to disruption, because there is no single point of failure that can bring the whole system down. For example, a decentralized network of computers can continue to operate even if some of the computers in the network go offline or are attacked. This can be particularly important for critical infrastructure or services that need to be available at all times.
3. Promotes innovation and competition: Decentralization can help to promote innovation and competition. Decentralization allows new ideas and technologies to emerge and be tested more easily, rather than being suppressed by a central authority. This can lead to more efficient and effective solutions over time.
4. Greater security: Decentralization can contribute to greater security in a variety of systems and contexts, because it makes it more difficult for a single entity to gain control or disrupt the system.
5. Enhanced privacy: Decentralized systems can provide greater privacy for users, because they do not rely on a single central authority to manage and store data. This can be especially important for systems that handle sensitive personal or financial information.
6. Increased transparency: Decentralization can also increase transparency. Decentralization allows more people to have access to information and participate in decision-making processes. This can help to build trust and confidence in the system.
How Decentralization Affects Museum Procedures
Decentralization can help museums maintain crowd control, increase visitor satisfaction, and make operations smoother. By transitioning to a decentralized system, museums can:
• Develop digital solutions that monitor gallery occupancy and redirect visitors to less crowded areas.
• Automate the ticketing process, enabling safer contactless payments and non-cash transactions.
• Improve access to exhibitions by allowing visitors to reserve tickets in advance.
• Increase accountability by allowing museum staff to monitor gallery occupancy through distributed ledger technology.
1 - Digital Solutions
Museums worldwide should leverage technology to provide visitors with a safe and enjoyable experience. Digital solutions are a feasible starting point. For instance, museums could take advantage of occupancy sensors to keep track of visitors in each gallery. These sensors can alert staff when an area becomes too crowded and redirect guests to less-frequented sections within the museum.
2 - Automated Ticketing
Integrating advanced ticketing systems help museums automate the entire checkout process: from buying tickets online to entering the museum without waiting in long queues. As a result, the staff won't be overburdened, and visitors can get a fast, secure, and contactless experience at the museum.
3 - Reserve Tickets in Advance
Implementing a system that allows visitors to reserve tickets ahead of time is essential, especially during the pandemic when risk management is critical. Timeslot booking systems enable museums to control the number of people who enter at any given time and prevent overcrowding of galleries.
4 - Monitor Gallery Occupancy
The pandemic pierced through cultural institutions and venues, calling for drastic changes in how museums operate and interact with their audiences. As the sector begins rebuilding and adapting to , one irony must be addressed: zero-foot traffic to crowding.
Yes, crowding is a legitimate concern for museums. For some observers, this doesn't make sense since cultural venues like museums are raring (and desperate) to lure visitors anew right after COVID-19 struck.
As a result of the restrictions, some museums were forced to shift their operations online and embrace digitalization. Some of these institutions even closed their doors to avoid spreading the virus.
But now that lockdowns are easing up and societies seem to be accepting the idea of living with COVID-19, museums are opening their doors again - but this time adhering to proper safety protocols like physical distancing.
But along with the renewed interest in visiting museums, there exists an underlying tension: how to reconcile the need for crowd control while simultaneously providing visitors with a safe and enjoyable experience.
The problem of maintaining crowd control has been around even before the pandemic started. Gallery rage is the feeling people get when they are forced to stand in long queues or crammed into small spaces due to the sheer number of visitors.
This becomes a lot worse when there's no proper guidance or regulation from museum staff.
Some museums are hungry for visitors, while others are likely overwhelmed by the sheer number of curious onlookers who flock to their galleries:
The National Gallery in London once imposed a "numbers restriction" on visits to its overly popular Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. The move was initially criticized because the museum would lose around $15,000 daily.
Some elite galleries like The Louvre are often victims of bad online reviews from visitors who told of overcrowding stories that made the experience more of a horrible trip than a pleasant one.
So, why are we talking about crowding and gallery rage, and how does it relate to decentralization? Well, it has something to do with decision-making. In a nutshell, decentralization could very well have the most significant impact on how museums decide on things while moving forward.
Integrating distributed ledger technology in museum galleries will help staff members check visitor numbers in real-time. It doesn't just allow them to make informed decisions on the fly; it also keeps track of visitors' movements when they enter and exit the museum.
And while decentralization may seem like a foreign concept to some, the reality is that it's been around for some time. About a decade ago, Greece initiated a policy of "dispersing" the country's extensive collection of artifacts and treasures to several locations instead of housing them in an Athens museum.
The result was an overwhelming success because many of the treasures found themselves closer to their origins, and some areas that were once economically depressed benefited from the tourism surge.
Bringing Experiences Directly to the Audience
The traditional centralized model of museum operations is outdated and unsustainable, especially given that with the pandemic, we don't know when or if audiences will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.
To meet this challenge, museums need to decentralize their operations, allowing them to bring their collections and experiences directly to their audiences.
Case in Point: Arkive
A brainchild of Tom McLeod, this blockchain-driven museum begs to differ from all other concepts that try to bridge the gap between virtual reality and cultural heritage. It aims to decentralize museum operations, making them more accessible and secure.
Arkive allows its members to curate their collections by voting on items they would like to acquire, transforming them into non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
This innovative technology replaces and stores all historical evidence, authenticity standards, quality ratings and condition statuses onto an immutable blockchain.
The significance of the blockchain for this decentralized process can't be understated. It allows museums to take advantage of digital asset tracking, smart contracts, authentication protocols and a wide variety of other technologies to manage their collections with minimal risk or effort.
Quite interestingly, Arkive's first "approved" purchase was the patent for the ENIAC.
If that word sounds familiar, you may remember it from your history classes - the ENIAC was the world's first general-purpose computer. While the patent no longer holds practical use, it deserves to be in Arkive's collection merely because it's a piece of history.
Disrupting the Old Narrative
The way museums interact with their collections and audiences is changing drastically. Blockchain technology assists in decentralizing museum operations, making them more accessible and secure. By deploying these protocols, museums transform the traditional centralized operation models and disrupt the old narrative. This opens new possibilities for exploring history in a digital environment, i.e., making museums more agile and allowing them to serve their audiences better.
Massive Collections No Longer the Standard
Blockchain protocols also help museums with the challenge of massive collections that are often difficult to manage. By decentralizing storage and providing remote access, blockchain-based platforms make it easier for museum staff to track artifacts, secure their provenance and curate exhibitions.
It's been done before, so there's no reason why it couldn't be done again: and that's exactly what decentralized museum operations aim to do.
With blockchain-driven platforms, there's a prospect of a new kind of museum experience - where audiences have direct access to content from dispersed collections and can engage in collecting, curating, and preserving history.
While there's still a long way to go, the blockchain revolutionizes how we interact with our cultural heritage.
This could allow us to explore different ways of preserving and presenting art and history, potentially leading to a new generation of digital tech-centric museums. And that's how the future of museums ought to be described: decentralized, accessible, and secure.