June 10: the practical materiality of Bitcoin (Maurer, Nelms and Swartz)

by lukevanryn

Photo Credit: JD Hancock

Photo Credit: JD Hancock

This week we continue our discussion of technologies of money with a recent article on Bitcoin. In this paper, the authors discuss BitCoin in terms of its code, its concept of money, and the interests that its advocates bring to bear on it. They argue that debates around BitCoin rehearse questions that are common to the history of money.

The investment of Bitcoin enthusiasts in their own liberty and privacy could be read as concern for personal credibility, although also, perhaps, an inversion of it: instead of establishing one’s reputation by extending oneself via one’s relations with others  issuing promises, circulating credit and credibility, and relying on the honesty and honest books of everyone in a market  one preserves oneself, cutting off all flows of information about oneself. And, moreover, it is the code that does this work of disconnection and silencing.

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[PDF] Maurer, B., Nelms, T. C., & Swartz, L. (2013). “When perhaps the real problem is money itself!”: the practical materiality of Bitcoin. Social Semiotics, 23(2), 261-277.