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Accepted Paper:

An ethnography of Italian Bitcoin Users  


Giovanni Daniele Starita (Università degli Studi di Perugia)

Paper short abstract:

The proposed paper is an analysis of an ethnography focused on Bitcoin users as observed in Rovereto during 2018. The aim is to provide further insights on the socio-political motivations underpinning Bitcoin usage as a digital cash alternative to the Euro.

Paper long abstract:

In the proposed paper, I will develop a study focusing on the ethnographic data I gathered in Rovereto in early 2018, related to the individual attitudes towards technology of Bitcoin users. To provide points of reference and a better understanding of the topic, the first section will analyse Graeber's reflections on the expectations of past generations on the impact of technological innovation as exposed in his book "The Utopia of Rules". Additionally, I will provide a short comparison between the structural characteristics of innovations such as those analysed by Graeber and the characteristics of digital technologies developed with open-source methodologies, specifically Bitcoin. In the second section, I will compare social mechanisms observed in Rovereto with the notion of inter-subjectivity as developed by Husserl and develop the notion of participative techno-optimism, as opposed to Graeber's understanding of techno-optimism. The theoretical notions analysed in the first two sections and the ethnographic material will then be connected, to provide further insights on the factors that may be underpinning the differences between the insights of Graeber's book and my findings in Italy. The conclusion aims to provide an understanding of the relationship between Bitcoin usage as in the case of Rovereto and the socio-political values of their users. Moreover, the Husserlian notion of inter-subjectivity will be used to provide a deeper understanding of the social context present in Rovereto, which may have played a role in the spread of Bitcoin usage.

Panel P057
Digital encounters, cashless cultures: Ethnographic perspectives on the impact of digital finance on economic communities