Deakin University
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An ethnography of bitcoin: towards a future research agenda

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Version 2 2024-06-13, 09:54
Version 1 2016-08-15, 12:37
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-13, 09:54 authored by A Maddox, S Singh, HA Horst, G Adamson
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are a recent socio-technical innovation that seeks to disrupt the existing monetary system. Through mundane uses of this new digital cash, they provide a social critique of the centralised infrastructures of the banking industry. This paper outlines an ethnographic research agenda that considers how the social uptake and use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin represents alternative views towards value exchange and critiques existing financial structures. We begin by arguing that the use of Bitcoin can be seen as an act of social resistance that is intended to bridge socio-economic inequalities within the context of a digital community. We then outline the disruptive nature of borderless, affordable and instantaneous international transfers in the form of remittances within social practice. Finally, we identify the possible permutations of trust that may be found in the technical affordances of Bitcoin technology and how these relate to user (pseudo)anonymity, cybertheft, cyberfraud, and consumer protection. Bringing together these three key areas, we highlight the importance of understanding the ordinary (rather than extra-ordinary) uses of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. We contend that focusing upon users’ interactions with Bitcoin as a payments system and community culture will shed light upon mundane acts of socio-technical disruption, acts that critique and provide alternative financial exchange practices to the payments and regulatory financial infrastructures of the banking industry.



Australian journal of telecommunications and the digital economy






Melbourne, Vic.





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2016, The Authors




Telecommunication Society of Australia