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Accepted Paper:

Peer, Community, Crowd: Social Dynamics on the Bitcoin Blockchain  
Matan Shapiro (King's College London)

Paper short abstract:

This talk focuses on the tension between 'communities' and 'crowds' in the world of blockchain enthusiasts, with empirical material from fieldwork in the Bitcoin embassy in Tel Aviv. Digitalization here emerges as a social dynamic that is simultaneously expansive and reductive.

Paper long abstract:

Bitcoinner around the world claim that digital crowding techniques on blockchains go beyond the ether of the virtual to constitute a very concrete/actual phenomenological discharge. This manifests empirically in boom-and-bust cycles, which curiously produce anonymous crowds on a very large scale while also supporting the emergence of self-defined local 'communities'. Adopters of digital money at large in fact speak about themselves as members of a global yet dispersed social movement, premised on what they call 'trsutlessness' and 'decentralization', while also making part of numerous clubs, cooperatives and trading floors; where they regularly meet and often also ritualize their love of cryptocurrencies. The 'curious' analytical point is that these dynamics are essentially contradictory: the crowd keeps expanding while the community tends to consolidate itself through enclosure. Like Alice's bite from a cake in Wonderland, consumption of digital information on the blockchain serves to both expand and reduce imaginary units of social interaction, intermittently structuring 'individuals' (or 'peers'), 'communities' and massive crowds.

Based on empirical fieldwork in Tel Aviv, in this talk I will contemplate on: (1) experimental concepts of digital sociality developed by cryptocurrency users, which might help scholars re-imagine the relationships between singularities and multiplicities; (2) the reinvention of old crowding techniques in new forms on blockchains, especially the use of gamification/play and financial incentives; and (3) the bridges (or tunnels) built across virtual and actual spaces that emergent new forms of financial edgework make possible, especially as this relates to images of social boundaries.

Panel P20c
Digitalization and the Reconstitution of the Social and Political Realities of Human Being
  Session 1 Wednesday 8 June, 2022, -