Now showing 1 - 10 of 40
  • Publication
    Exploring Decentralized Autonomous Organizations: Towards Shared Interests and ‘Code is Constitution’
    In recent years, scholarly interest research on blockchain technology steadily increased. While the underlying technology matures, observed problems in the field show questions of governance to remain crucial, even though scarcely studied empirically. One approach of solving these problems can be seen in decentralized autonomous organizations, which describes a new type of organizing that is grounded on consensus-based, distributed autonomy. The governance peculiarities of DAOs is fairly unexplored, and this is where this research commences. In an exploratory multiple case study consisting of three popular DAOs Aragon, Tezos, and DFINITY, their governance peculiarities are worked out by analyzing grey literature to understand stakeholder interests, incentivization, control, and coordination mechanisms, technical considerations, and external influences from off-chain entities. In the context of an on-and-off-chain continuum, it appears that DAOs provide mechanisms that might enable autonomous decision-making but, at the same time, find themselves strongly influenced by the interests of various stakeholders.
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    Bitcoin and the Blockchain: a coup d'état in Digital Heterotopia?
    This conference invites us to explore new organisational forms and practices that might be alternatives to 'neoliberal market managerialism' and 'financial capitalism'. Our starting point is that the latter two phenomena cannot be separated off analytically from powerful actors — such as the state — that have co-emerged with and played a key role in the evolutionary process through which capitalism has come to be (Graeber 2011). Specifically, this paper takes its move from Hobbes’s (1651/2005) idea of the Leviathan, which has provided a foundational intellectual basis for the nation-state form, which is today ubiquitous, and on which both neoliberalism and financial capitalism are reliant. Hobbes rooted his construct in a pessimistic view of humankind that is naturally inclined towards the 'war of all against all'. He argued that people must recognize that such a 'state of nature' is destructive, and must accept, on the basis of utilitarian reasoning, the necessity of a social contract to constitute a supreme actor whose power is absolute and enforced by a monopoly on violence. Hence, the Leviathan and the body politic are constituted at once and are irreversible. No exit is allowed; no ethical, moral or religious limit can be posed in front of this power. The Leviathan is total because there is no room for any other rationality, and finite because all people are tied to the social contract. Hobbes’s idea of the Leviathan has proved to be enduring and alluring, and provides a primary focus for this paper. What is especially interesting for us is that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have emerged from a similar 'thought experiment' beginning with a 'state of nature' not unlike Hobbes’s depiction. Here, the seminal contribution is by the mysterious individual or individuals known as Satoshi Nakamoto who, in 2008, published a paper that set out the basis for the 'blockchain technology' on which cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and other services, are based (Nakamoto 2008). Not unlike Hobbes’s 'state of nature', Nakamoto begins with an imaginary world populated by trustless individuals. The problem he addresses is how to enable trustworthy transactions on the internet without recourse to a 'trusted third party', such as a state-regulated (and state-supported) bank. Indeed, in line with libertarian ideology, one of Nakamoto’s key objectives was to preclude the possibility of any single and all-encompassing ruling authority emerging. His elegant solution is Bitcoin, a purely digital cryptocurrency that is not administered by any constituted organization and is not circumscribed within any consistent jurisdiction. The 'blockchain', on which Bitcoin is based, is a public ledger of transactions maintained by a dispersed and open-ended number of 'miners' who provide computing power to maintain and guarantee the integrity of the ledger. While the Bitcoin economy is tiny compared to official currencies — but remarkable compared to alternative and local currencies — it plants the seeds of a currency (intended as a mode of regulating transactions) that could threaten many of the quasi-monopoly powers that the state currently exercises through the central bank, viz: surveying and collecting data on citizens and corporations, setting credit rates and monetary policy, deciding on and implementing exchange rate policies, assuring the robustness of the payment infrastructure, protecting the interests of consumers, controlling money-laundering, and regulating/supporting existing financial service providers (Murphy 2014). Nakamoto’s attempt to create a money system without a central authority is best seen at the intersection of diachronic and synchronic issues. Historically, the blockchain is one of a long string of information technologies that, since the 1960s, have avoided centralization, partly as a defence against possible Soviet nuclear attack, and partly in sympathy with the Western open culture of the 1960s and 1970s. In relation to contemporary phenomena, Bitcoin entangles with the state’s power and jurisdiction, which is simultaenously being challenged by the shadow economy, by individuals and corporations choosing where they wish to pay tax, by the free flow of information within trans-national information infrastructures, and by global internet services and commerce. While Hobbes and Nakamoto start from similar positions, they end up in quite different destinations, and, since theory can be performative (Austin 1970), this means that very different worlds come to be. Analytically, each provides a lens through which one can examine the other, in theory and in practice. Together, the lenses provide a framing device for reimagining key concepts and practices that underpin the contemporary nation-state and, by extension, financial capitalism. The full paper will report on this comparative analysis. The Bitcoin phenomenon raises interesting methodological and theoretical points that we will also explore in the paper. Methodologically, the actor-network injunction to 'follow the actors' — i.e. focus on performance — is practically impossible due to the sheer scale, technical intricacies, global dispersion and far-fetched effects of currency-related phenomena. Focusing on visible performance is also misleading theoretically because it fails to distinguish between what does not happen, those 'influences which operate behind the back of agents, and which therefore cannot be found in micro-situations' (Knorr-Cetina 1981: 28), and what is purposefully avoided (Law and Singleton 2005). Indeed, Bitcoin is a manifestation of a totem of digital cultures: there is always an elsewhere, beyond the control of organizations. Creating an elsewhere free from Leviathan’s constraints (which resonates with Foucault’s notion of heterotopia) disrupts the body politic by exceeding or overflowing its framings (Callon 1998). The peculiarity of Bitcoin is not in any frontal clash with authority but rather in its strategy of avoidance, which we might interpret as a form of différance or the playing of an alternative game. What Bitcoin also illustrates is that the link between the micro and the macro is neither based on an immutable social contract nor maintained by an unbounded power. Rather, scalable and publicly accessible computing resources coordinate trustless macro actions without necessarily constituting actors and identities (Czarniawska 2008/2014). The paper will further examine the paradox where the supplement of the age of visibility is action without actors and the emergence of new boundaries between frontstage and backstage, public and secret.
  • Publication
    Sui Limiti della Rete
    (UNI Service, 2005)
    The sociology of communication has evolved through a number of iterations since the end of the Second W orld War. The initial engagement with social effects and functional uses of communications technology gradually gave way to alternative preoccupations with cultural studies, deconstruction, hermeneutics of different stripes, media imperialism, anthropology of media, postmodernism, critical theory, political economy of media, among other explanatory conventions too numerous to list here. While varied in assumptions and method, all approaches of the past half century can be distilled down to a fundamental question: how does a communications medium or technology alter the information environment and thus the basis of society and do these modifications improve or undermine the quality and breadth of social communications? While woven into the premise of all schools of thought in communication research, few seemed to recognize or clearly articulate this central and crucial question even though it may be assumed at some deeply embedded level. --- La Rete è cambiata. Non solo per tecniche e codici espressivi che di continuo si danno attraverso Internet, ma per il tramonto delle utopie che l’hanno mossa, per la dissoluzione dell’autonomia che la segnava come alterità dalla società e dalle sue costrizioni, per la circoscrizione delle libertà, per le promesse mancate. A questo punto la Rete non è interessante solo per ciò che è, sarà e potrebbe essere, ma anche per ciò che non è, né sarà in futuro. Cercare i limiti dell’ambito di ciò che per sua stessa natura pareva non averne, aiuta a dar intenzione, forma e pragmatismo alle aspettative e alle energie sociali che la Rete aveva mobilitato. Una comprensione di ampio respiro, sebbene non esaustiva, necessita di punti di equilibrio fra segni e potere, fra automatismi e società, fra cause endogene ed esogene, per marcare il confine fra rete e non-rete. Ma servono anche vettori di fuga dai dualismi, per tracciare continuità pratiche e teoriche fra aspetti apparentemente distanti: intersoggetività della comunicazione, socialità dei significat i, potere come influenza, silenzio/esclusione per comprendere i campi di possibilità offerti dal medium.
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  • Publication
    A claim upon what? Cryptocurrencies as 'scene'
    The internet architecture, usage, and culture have always been defined by openness. Since its inception in the late decades of the Cold War, internet designers made any node of this digital network equal and capable of bridging new nodes without the need of anyone else’s approval. This way, the formation of single points of failure is avoided because nodes can always be added, and communications can always be rerouted through alternative nodes. This principle of resilience – which assumes that centers are easy targets, thus weak links, rather than strongholds – was intended to prevent the emergence of hierarchies among nodes and priorities among messages. So, Soviet attacks could hit any node but never paralyze the entirety of this network of military communication. The persistent defense of network openness – still visible in the ongoing debate on ‘net neutrality’ – is well expressed by the motto "we reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code", coined by David Clark, a chief internet architect. The same openness proved future-proof through the decades to come.
  • Publication
    Tribal Governance: The Business of Blockchain Authentication
    (Urban Centre for Computation and Data, 2018-01-06) ; ; ;
    The blockchain technology offers a novel mode of distributed authentication, which does not depend on a central authority. We consider this novelty against established governance modes. We illustrate our argument by paying special attention to blockchain-based authentication functions in the empirical domain of land registries across the world. Based on interviews with representatives from organizations deploying blockchain, and content analysis of related grey literature, we discuss established governance idealtypes against what the rivalry that cryptocurrencies and blockchains bring to digital settings. After referring to market, hierarchy, network, and bazaar, we conclude outlining the prospects of a different, blockchain-related governance mode called ‘tribal’ that better captures the ‘togetherness’ which rivalry originates.
  • Publication
    Infrastructures and their invisible carnivalesque
    (European Group for Organization Studies, 2017-07-08) ;
    In this paper, we argue that Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies more generally, is an important and distinctive information infrastructure that warrants substantive study by organizational scholars. The Bitcoin system is briefly described and the particular methodological challenges involved in studying the phenomenon are also discussed. We assert that neither of the two broad conceptualisations of information infrastructures found in the literature -- topdown and bottom-up -- help us in understanding Bitcoin. Instead, Bitcoin is better understood as a form of game and we draw on the ludology literature and the case material to identify its game dimensions. Bitcoin is a particular type of game, and we introduce the term Klein Bottle Game to describe this type of game. A Klein bottle a one-sided, non-orientable surface that has no boundary. We then describe the main features of Klein bottle games. First, they are different from most games in that the boundaries between the game and non-game worlds are not decipherable. Second, we use the term Klein Portal to describe the particular set of practices that link the Klein Bottle Game that is Bitcoin to other infrastructures. Third, we argue that Bitcoin exhibits many of the features of the carnivalesque -- hence we speak of the crypto-carnivalesque -- in that it is a site where norms and structures are temporarily suspended, conventional authority is contested, and autonomy if favoured over heteronomy. Fourth, Bitcoin is a site of ironic inversion, in that the ideology that drove Bitcoin's initial development shows signs of now being inverted. We conclude by noting the distinctive nature of Bitcoin and caution against extending our analysis to other instances of information infrastructures.