The Distributing Chains thesis is driven by the question what matters politically in blockchain technology? By “matters” what is meant is literally mattering as in making a material difference. By “politically” what is meant is the mediation and resolution of incompatibility and the process through which the possible and impossible are spatially distributed.
In the quest for answering this question, the thesis develops and employs three strategies, or methods for thinking and working on the politics of blockchain technologies: Diffraction; dissensus; and the (re)distribution of the possible. The thesis discusses these strategies in relation to three case studies of blockchain technology – Bitcoin, Ethereum and Faircoin – first describing their architectures and the ways in which they differentiate from each other as a moment of choice and decision-making that reveals principles, beliefs and assumptions; secondly, analysing moments of conflict and dissensus within each case that forces an more explicit articulation of principles (political, design, technical) as well as processes for resolving incompatibility, in turn rearticulating the principles; and thirdly, the ways in which each of the cases entail a redistribution of what is possible, and for who, that extends to and reconfigures other spaces and modes of politics. The thesis thus contributes a set of methods for analysing and assessing the politics that is emerging in and through blockchain technology.