Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The thesis examines how the technology of blockchain can be used as governing mechanism to create a more democratic digital space. Starting with an overview of internet history, this section contextualizes the terms “sterile” and “generative” technology. This tension is a constant in internet history with blockchain being the “generative” pull away from the more “sterile” server stack model of big tech. Both current state and corporate governances are built off a more centralized model, however with blockchain technology, democracy, as well as company structure is being re-examined. Ideas such as stakeholder capitalism and open democracy are a similarly “generative” model as opposed to the more centralized “sterile” approach of more traditional democracies. With a space that humans communicate also comes ethics that define the morals and norms of the space. In a more centralized model, utilitarian and deontological approaches to ethics have provided a groundwork for a just society prior to the computer. However, the computer, acknowledging the multiplicity of “being,” requires an approach to ethics that is more decentralized than these current ethical models. Existentialism, through Sartre’s examination of “being,” exposes the flaws in centralized ethics through the acknowledgment of human “beings” as being in a constant flux with their “being” being defined by a “being” outside of their own existence; “the Other.” This sets the stage to delve into the benefit of a computer system functioning more off a decentralized approach like a blockchain system. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO) directly tests blockchain as a governing system. Supported by the ethics of existential philosophy, blockchain, like state governance can be justified as a genuine form of governance. While there are drawbacks to blockchain the technology holds a lot of potential of creating the most democratic space in the history of the world.
Gustafson, David, "The Existential Crisis of the New World Digital: How Centralization Stole the Internet and What Blockchain Technology Could Offer the User" (2022). College of Communication Master of Arts Theses. 40.