This case study concerned new startups emerging in the blockchain scene. It explored, in a contextualized manner, the narratives, practices, rationales, encounters, and motivations of specific projects. Data was collected through ethnographic fieldwork, netnography, and the observation of events and workshops around three startups: Economic Space Agency (ECSA), Pangea / Bitnation, and Binary.

ECSA is a decentralized collective developing digital tools for economic and financial collaboration between individuals and organizations (https://economicspace.agency/). In this case, digital ethnography was followed by collaborative live ethnography in Oakland, USA, with a focus on the discursive and narrative aspects framing the process of digital engineering, from the role of metaphorical language (see Faustino 2019) to the theoretical tales woven around the emblematic figure of French author Gilles Deleuze (see Faustino 2022).

Pangea and Bitnation consist of a DAO and a proposal for the creation of a totally libertarian form of governance based on blockchain technology and on a reputational token – PAT – and monetized reputation system. The research on this project included digital research and ethnography and several encounters and interviews with people participating in the development of the project, both in the Netherlands and online. The objective was to explore meaning-making dynamics within the project’s team, project narratives and pragmatics, as well as the project’s relationship with money, the moneyness of cryptocurrencies, speculation and regulatory conjunctures (see Faria 2019 and 2022, Faustino et al. 2022).

Binary is a blockchain service provider startup. It was chosen as a case study due to the peculiarity of its foundations – the buyers of a cryptocurrency that was involved in a pump-and-dump scheme redesigned and programmed a ‘valueless’ token into a stable, anonymized one suitable for information transfer, storage and validation. This research took place online in team communication channels and live with a primary research interlocutor in the Netherlands. The focus was on money, team structuring and blockchain-based project relationships with currency volatility and scams.

Image: The Dutch Blockchain Hackathon, Groningen, 2017. An example of a site where startups, financial incumbents and the regulators meet.
Source: Inês Faria

Image: Economic Space Agency headquarters: a garage in a residential neighbourhood in Oakland, USA (2017).Affairs
Source: Sandra Faustino

Faria, I., 2019. Trust, reputation and ambiguous freedoms: financial institutions and subversive libertarians navigating blockchain, markets, and regulation. Journal of Cultural Economy, 12 (2), 119–132.
Faria, I., 2022. When tales of money fail: the importance of price, trust, and sociality for cryptocurrency users. Journal of Cultural Economy, 15 (1), 81–92. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2021.1974070
Faustino, S., 2019. How metaphors matter: an ethnography of blockchain-based re-descriptions of the world. Journal of Cultural Economy, 12 (6), 478–490.
Faustino, S., 2022. Deleuze in the wild: making philosophy matter for fintech. Journal of Cultural Economy, 15 (1), 93–102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2021.1977676.
Faustino, S., Faria, I., and Marques, R., 2021. The myths and legends of king Satoshi and the knights of blockchain. Journal of Cultural Economy, 15 (1), 67–80. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2021.1921830

 Previous See All Next