Stakeholders and Value in the NFT Ecosystem

Multi-disciplinary research on the NFT phenomenon




UX Design


Amos Cappellaro at Chalmers University of Technology, Ylva Fernaeus at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, funded by Vetenskapsrådet (The Swedish Research Council) – Natural and Engineering Sciences Grant 2019-04826 (2020–2023)

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been a defining trend for design, technology, and business in 2021.

The value, legitimacy, and utility of NFTs is disputed: proponents highlight revolutionary economic and cultural potentials of an open, secure, and immutable ownership database, while opponents are displeased by the environmental issues and abundant wrongdoing in the ecosystem. Nevertheless, they signify important developments for future interactive products.

To better understand the technological, cultural, and economic phenomenon of NFTs, we investigated characteristics and relations of stakeholders in the NFT ecosystem. Our research culminated in a model with six stakeholder categories and explains the motivations, actions, and relations of each: artists and creators, NFT owners, startups and investors, developers, auction houses, and corporates.

Our analysis is based on mining open data from the social news website Hacker News, where we appraised 913 articles and fully analyzed 183 items posted over 2021. To our knowledge, our contribution is the first data-backed model of the NFT ecosystem that documents its technological, cultural, and economic aspects.

Insights resulting from our research include:

  • a nuanced account of the views, motivations, and actions of creators, owners, and technologists, as well as the value propositions which drive their participation in the NFT ecosystem;
  • articulating the role of investment firms and auction houses as powerful arbiters of knowledge and value;
  • illuminating paths to future design and research work, including products to serve NFT creators and owners, developments to enable novel use cases, and new research questions for computer science, business, and social sciences.

Selected Results

Mehmet Aydın Baytaş, Amos Cappellaro, & Ylva Fernaeus (2022). Stakeholders and Value in the NFT Ecosystem. In CHI EA '22: Extended Abstracts of the 2022 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. [PDF]