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Trust Machines: Cryptocurrencies, Blockchains, and Humans in Cultures of Mistrust

Network technologies allow individuals to participate in technological market systems that can mediate trust independently from traditional public institutions. This presents a novel idea of governance that is distinct to the one in liberal democracies. I explore the use of cryptocurrencies (digital currencies based on cryptography) in Argentina to shed light on the social dynamics underlying technological market systems that mediate trust. These social dynamics include ideas, perceptions, and emotions, as well as specific practices that determine different relations to traditional institutions. I study how cryptocurrencies and blockchain (decentralized records that rely on cryptography) technologies are understood by Argentine enthusiasts and developers, and how communities of enthusiasts generate adequate social environments for the transmission of information and for emotional support. I highlight the discursive and social aspects of the phenomenon. Based on these findings, I describe the imaginary of participatory institutions (a vision where individuals engage with public institutions providing limited information on a consensual basis) and I describe how a city government in Argentina is interpreting this imaginary.

Tomás Guarna
Written by
Tomás Guarna

Tomás Guarna is a social scientist and media practitioner from Argentina. He is interested in civic media, digital governance, and the political effects of misinformation. Tomás received his B.A. in Social Sciences from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Following that, he worked for the Presidency of Argentina’s Digital Communications Team collaborating on the Presidency’s digital strategy. In addition to his work in technology and politics, Tomás has created several public digital media projects like Un Amor de Verano, an email exchange project with more than 3.000 participants. Tomás is a Human Rights & Technology Fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies.

Tomás Guarna Written by Tomás Guarna