Currency in transition: An ethnographic inquiry of Bitcoin adherents-Masters thesis

Currency in transition: An ethnographic inquiry of Bitcoin adherents-Masters thesis

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The Internet and other telecommunications systems have reshaped the means by which markets are accessed, generated, and transformed. Recent innovations in computer science have led to the development of a virtually bound, decentralized, encrypted currency system known as bitcoin. Unlike conventional currency systems, the Bitcoin protocol is cryptologically defined with a virtual structure that allows it to simultaneously operate as currency, commodity, and market shaping socio-political force. Its decentralized design permits it to function as a free-market response to fiat
currencies vulnerable to inflation, regulation, and manipulation. Given the cultural significance anthropologists and other social scientists have assigned to various modes and mediums of exchange over the years, the socio-economic impact of this novel currency system warrants particular consideration. This research describes the Bitcoin community that has emerged alongside the currency, including the entrepreneurs, developers, and consumers who are dedicated to bitcoin’s perpetuation and acceptance as an internationally recognized medium of exchange. Ethnographic interviews and participant observation were utilized to collect information from users in the Central Florida area, detailing their experiences and interactions with the Bitcoin protocol and its associated community. This research provides new levels of anthropological insight into currency development, market interaction, and economically embodied social commentary. Moreover, its exploratory nature helps create a viable framework around which qualitative inquiry of virtual crypto-currencies may be designed in future studies.