How does a distributed ledger become a medium? Why do people count on blockchain as a future technology? Our research project does not answer these questions on an abstract level. We rather aim to explore the development and operating of blockchain infrastructure on site. Initially, we conduct interviews with stakeholders working on applications for payment systems and the Internet of Things.
Blockchains in Action assumes that development and transformation processes can be observed in local material practices of cooperation. We understand blockchains as infrastructural and public media. Their capacities for mediation only become observable in practice, which we approach through a combination of ethnography and media theory.
Unlike predictions, ‘networks’ are on their way out. The reason for this is the unprecedented concentration of money, power, and infrastructures in the hands of a few monopoly players. Instead of ‘social networks’ we speak of ‘social media’, and that is no coincidence. In fact, ‘network theory’ has followed this trend for some time and has been in relative decline for longer than we might be aware. We can consider the 1990s the golden period of network theory, dominated by a scientific-mathematical method (Barabasi, Watts) and also a social science approach (Castells). Since the crisis of the rhizomatic and productivist Deleuze and the subsequent rise of ‘dark Deleuze’ (Culp), the question has become: why connect, if machines will connect us regardless?
So here is what I wrote as an abstract for a talk on April 14, 2015. It was hosted by the fabulous Digital Cultures Research Lab and took place at the Stadtarchiv of Lüneburg.
My talk is going to present some preliminary thoughts on the notion of “boundary objects” in digital infrastructures. I am going to reconsider the relation “networks” and “platforms” from a network historical and STS point of view. The “Internet of Things” is actually fairly old, if confronted with earlier special purpose digital networks. But how may we speculate already on its remediating qualities in terms of new objecthood, networked agencies, and platform regulations?
I always wanted to refurbish the slides which I had written with the LaTeX beamer class for a change. But now we have got the audiovisual documentary – splendid. Huge thanks to all the great people at DCRL! (And I still have to rework the slides at some point).