Blockchained to what (end)? a socio-material provocation to check distributed futures

Luke Heemsbergen, Alexia Maddox, Robbie Fordyce

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

Abstract

This chapter braces against the ideological tide washing in on peer-to-peer, distributed ledgers based upon cryptography, or phrasing that adds ‘blockchain enabled’ to various forms of digital communication practice. Through a media studies lens we theorise blockchain as ‘Web 3.0’ technology, signalling the emergence of ‘human programming’, where people become the conscious linkages between disparate machineries while serving their underlying vulnerabilities. We also draw upon historical analysis of community access television (CATV) and the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) to argue that radical ideologies have intertwined with ‘new media’ and specifically networked media since the 1960s and follow an innovation and adoption trajectory of expansion and contraction. Through the case study of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency based upon the blockchain protocol, we examine its initial innovative frames of expansion through decentralisation and disruption of the centralised banking system. We then move to highlighting its tidal contraction via reabsorption into centralised structures and point to the indelible changes brought to the communication-life floor are left after these technologies engage the socio-political. We conclude this critique by considering how smart contracts are ledgers of built personal data that are inescapable for their subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBlockchain and Web 3.0
Subtitle of host publicationSocial, Economic, and Technological Challenges
EditorsMassimo Ragnedda, Giuseppe Destefanis
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter10
Pages144-158
Number of pages15
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9780429029530
ISBN (Print)9780367139841
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society
PublisherRoutledge
Volume41

Keywords

  • cryptocurrency
  • blockchain
  • technology distribution
  • web 3.0

Cite this

Heemsbergen, L., Maddox, A., & Fordyce, R. (2020). Blockchained to what (end)? a socio-material provocation to check distributed futures. In M. Ragnedda, & G. Destefanis (Eds.), Blockchain and Web 3.0: Social, Economic, and Technological Challenges (1st ed., pp. 144-158). (Routledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society; Vol. 41). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429029530-10