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Accepted Paper:

‘Blockchain Oracles and Crypto Cassandras:’ Towards a Conceptualisation of the Techno-Financial Imaginary  
Julie Valk (King's College London) Ruowen Xu (King's College London) Alexandru Preda (King's College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper puts forward the concept of the 'techno-financial imaginary'. We argue that the growth of blockchain technology, and the ways in which the blockchain is imagined to improve life for the better, need be understood as an 'imaginary' which is both technological and financial in nature.

Paper long abstract:

Based on over 170 interviews with finance and technical professionals in blockchain firms, start-ups and cryptocurrency exchanges, this paper explores the ways in which proponents of blockchain technology understand the possibilities and futures they think blockchain will enable. To understand this fully, we put forward the concept of the 'techno-financial imaginary'. In the social sciences, we are familiar with the concepts of a 'social imaginary' (Taylor 2004), which examines the ways in which people perceive and construct their social world. Meanwhile, in Science and Technology Studies, we are familiar with the concepts of the technoscientific imaginary (Marcus 1995), which explores the imaginaries of scientists and technical experts, and the 'sociotechnical imaginary', which is broader and does not necessarily focus on scientists and technical experts as the empirical basis of analysis (Jasanoff and Kim 2015). While these two strands of technological imaginary differ from one another in terms of their empirical point of view, both define the imaginary itself in terms of its preoccupation with the future and what might be possible. The blockchain as a technological imaginary is inherently concerned with what might be possible in the future, but this is specifically related to finance, in particular with regards to decentralisation and disintermediation. The concern with circumventing banks and central authorities reveals a broader dissatisfaction with structures of financial power. This is why, we argue, a new conceptualisation of the imaginary is necessary to fully understand the growth and development of blockchain as underpinned by a 'techno-financial' imaginary.

Panel P28a
Blockchain Imaginaries: Techno-utopianism, dystopias, and the future-imagining of Web 3.0
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -