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Title: "The authority of the steam" : power dynamics of digital production in the Bitcoin blockchain
Author: Velasco González, Pablo R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 6201
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis offers a critical investigation of the Bitcoin currency and the operation of its technical structure, i.e. blockchain technology. The main objective of the research is to identify and describe the specific power dynamics performed by and through this digital phenomenon. “Power dynamics” are framed in this work largely in terms of authority and sovereignty. To structure an exploration of such dynamics, the narrative is overarched by four different notions of “utopia” —as paradox, ideal, no-place, and imagined governance— that address the following main questions always underpinned by the general inquiry on power: What is the Bitcoin Blockchain? Where is it located? How are power relations performed in it? And how are power relations modified in relation with previous institutional systems? The thesis addresses distinct notions of authority in Bitcoin through the observation of its historical, spatial, and organizational characteristics. It maps the techno-political emergence of the blockchain system, the geographical distribution of Bitcoin’s infrastructural network, and the strategies for governance involved in its development as software. Based on the observation of these settings, this thesis argues that Bitcoin posits a restructuration of power dynamics through the automation of code, in particular, through its process of production. In order to develop this restructuration, the power dynamics of the Bitcoin blockchain are weighted against authority models of the state’s institutions. The thesis builds upon existing political theories of Empire (Hardt and Negri), protocol (Galloway), and the Stack (Bratton) to develop a critical account of Bitcoin’s power dynamics. The work sits in between the disciplines of Media Theory, Software Studies, Political Theory, and Digital Methods, and makes use of qualitative and quantitative methods to empirically support the former argument.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mexico)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HG Finance ; HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism ; JC Political theory