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Accepted Paper:

‘Bitcoin Bros’ & Big Emotions - “If I get a lobotomy will it make me a less emotional trader?”  
Anna Rohmann (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Cryptocurrencies lead to the ‘bitcoin bro’-investor figure. Narratives around them centre rational behaviour when they are in fact highly affective. In their attempts to navigate this contrast, investors use different strategies, which is explored through an anthropological lens.

Paper long abstract:

With the advent of cryptocurrencies, financial and blockchain imaginaries became intertwined. A common thread here is a new type of neoliberal retail investor figure – the ‘bitcoin bro’, a male digital native who meets the responsibility of managing wealth head-on by using blockchain technology, like bitcoin. They are supposed to make rational decisions to manage risk and uncertainty. Contrarily, they are aware that they operate on personal networks of trust to mitigate these fears, which demonstrates that economic activity is fundamentally affective.

However, how these affective dynamics play out and shape narratives of the investor figure is underexplored. To fill this gap, I explore the emotional scripts ‘bitcoin bros’ use to negotiate imaginaries of blockchain technology through an anthropological lens. I carry out discourse analysis on the reddit forum r/wallstreetbets that offers trading-advice combined with collaborative ethnographic research featuring visualisations of interlocutors’ emotional landscapes.

Many of the investors make their emotions explicit and try to find ways to balance them with their task of wealth management. Different strategies for ‘coping’ with their emotions are the use of humour, emphasis on conforming with the figure, integrating that figure into one’s narrative of self, and focusing on the shared imaginaries in what I argue are ‘financial communities of care’.

Looking into affective aspects of the investor figure in blockchain imaginaries goes beyond economic activity to the feelings behind them. Understanding this generates insights into strategies to deal with financial pressure and, the risks and benefits of techno-financial interaction.

Panel P28b
Blockchain Imaginaries: Techno-utopianism, dystopias, and the future-imagining of Web 3.0
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -