The Blockchain as a Narrative Technology: Investigating the Social Ontology and Normative Configurations of Cryptocurrencies

Date

2016-10-31

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Springer

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

In this paper, we engage in a philosophical investigation of how blockchain technologies such as cryptocurrencies can mediate our social world. Emerging blockchain-based decentralised applications have the potential to transform our financial system, our bureaucracies and models of governance. We construct an ontological framework of “narrative technologies” that allows us to show how these technologies, like texts, can configure our social reality. Drawing from the work of Ricoeur and responding to the works of Searle, in postphenomenology and STS, we show how blockchain technologies bring about a process of emplotment: an organisation of characters and events. First, we show how blockchain technologies actively configure plots such as financial transactions by rendering them increasingly rigid. Secondly, we show how they configure abstractions from the world of action, by replacing human interactions with automated code. Third, we investigate the role of people’s interpretative distances towards blockchain technologies: discussing the importance of greater public involvement with their application in different realms of social life.

Description

This article is available via Open Access on the publisher's webpage. Follow the DOI for full text.

Keywords

Blockchain technology, Cryptocurrencies, Ethics, Politics, Narrative, Ricoeur, Searle, STS

Citation

Reijers, W. and Coeckelbergh, M. (2016) The Blockchain as a Narrative Technology: Investigating the Social Ontology and Normative Configurations of Cryptocurrencies. Philosophy and Technology, Bd. online first, DOI: 10.1007/s13347-016-0239-x

Rights

Research Institute

Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)