Blockchain, Data and Cryptocurrencies: Digital Technologies for Alternative Economic Imaginaries?

In the context of data-intensive economies often associated with decentralization, research in geography and beyond is developing an interest in how innovative digital technologies are affecting socio-economic change. Blockchain algorithms, cryptocurrencies and the novel ways in which data is being used are generating new industries and new technologies. Often, these new digital technologies come with sets of political values and rhetorics that are also altering economic geographies. In this special session, we are interested in the various ways in which blockchain-based technologies are mobilized and realized in conjunction with (alternative) economic imaginaries that promise to organize socio-economic systems “differently”. On the one hand, some of those interventions amount to neoliberal-type initiatives, more in line with decentralized markets as the ideal economic archetype. Recent research, for instance, is showing the importance of engaging with how blockchain and crypto-economic models are generating new forms of “crypto-colonialism” (Crandall, 2019), being used to foster the interest of finance and banking industries (Thomason et al., 2018) or portrayed as a silver-bullet solution to disrupt developmental aid economies (Kshetri, 2017). On the other hand, this technology has also been said to foment “political and economic change by circumventing growth-orientated interests” (Howson, 2020:5). This also allows us to look at blockchain and crypto economies as potential contributors to developing democratic governance tools and online community platforms (Dallyn & Frenzel, 2020).

This session aims to both deepen the discussion on blockchain innovations and economic geography; engage with empirical cases and elaborate on theoretical notions that might assist in navigating this new technological phenomenon.

This session invites empirical and theoretical contributions speaking to the following aspects: