Society for Economic Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
The blockchain world with its dream of decentralisation is still relatively new. It was only last year that Bitcoin celebrated its 10th birthday. The decentralised world is still under construction - the blockchain landscape is constantly shifting in anticipation of the yet-to-come decentralised world. Within this world-under-construction there is an abundance of social imaginaries at play; different visions of how decentralisation can be achieved. Accompanying this abundance of imaginaries is a deep sense of uncertainty experienced by those in the blockchain world. Which imaginary will come to fruition? What key factors will determine which imaginary will be successful? This sense of uncertainty is reflected in the language commonly employed on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency message boards. Terms such as FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), HODL (hold on to dear life) in the face of uncertainty, and FOMO (fear of missing out), are commonly used to narrate the uncertainty involved in the blockchain world.
Using ethnographic work conducted in London, one of the leading capitals of the blockchain world, this paper looks at the specific uncertainties faced by two different communities: the ‘crypto’ (cryptocurrency) and the ‘enterprise’ community. Although both these communities use blockchain technology, they have vastly different imaginaries of the decentralised world. To put it crudely, the crypto community has much more anti-establishment imaginaries compared to the enterprise community. Specifically, this paper explores the strategies and narratives employed by these communities to deal with the constantly changing blockchain world and the uncertainty that comes with anticipating the yet-to-come decentralised world.