Social Machine

The analysis of Polish blockchain ecosystem 

Block­cha­in tech­no­lo­gies (distri­bu­ted led­ger sys­tems) pro­mi­se a new spa­ce for human coope­ra­tion; new way of gene­ra­ting com­mon know­led­ge, the con­sen­sus. It does not sound like much, but a tech­no­lo­gi­cal com­mon deno­mi­na­tor like this has a huge poten­tial to trans­form socie­ties, eco­no­mies and insti­tu­tions of the sta­te. Part of this poten­tial has to do with decen­tra­li­zed cha­rac­ter of block­cha­in tech­no­lo­gy, which can be con­si­de­red an advan­ta­ge or a pro­blem, depen­ding on your point of view.

At the same time block­cha­in sys­tems are typi­cal tech­no­lo­gi­cal ‚black­bo­xes’ and becau­se of the­ir obscu­ri­ty they have not been yet tho­ro­ugh­ly exa­mi­ned by social scien­ces. This makes it dif­fi­cult to asses the social impact of this emer­ging technology.

The aim of the pro­ject is to take a look at both the­se aspects of block­cha­in tech­no­lo­gies using two rese­arch avenues:

  • esta­bli­shed tech com­pa­nies, yiel­ding the socio­lo­gi­cal acco­unt of what are the­ir poten­tial for social and insti­tu­tio­nal impact,
  • Insti­tu­tio­nal ana­ly­sis, aimed at sho­wing whe­re block­cha­in fra­me­works on one side, and insti­tu­tions of the sta­te on the other, can syner­gi­ze and gene­ra­te inno­va­ti­ve servi­ces and envi­ron­ments for citi­zens. The descrip­tion of the pro­cess of mutu­al acco­mo­da­tion of the insti­tu­tions of the sta­te and bloc­ka­cha­in-based solutions.

The sociological analysis of Polish blockchain startups 

Pro­jects based on distri­bu­ted led­ger tech­no­lo­gies are social labo­ra­to­ries and the result of the­ir deve­lop­ment are ‚social machi­nes’: hybrid sys­tems in which infor­ma­tion tech­no­lo­gies and human beha­vio­ur are inter­twi­ned and loc­ked toge­ther. From the socio­lo­gi­cal point of view it is impor­tant to disco­ver how the­se kinds of struc­tu­res are cre­ated and what can be the social con­se­qu­en­ces of the­ir functioning.

Institutional Analysis

In the public disco­ur­se abo­ut block­cha­ins the­re is a ten­sion betwe­en the regu­la­to­ry stan­ce of the insti­tu­tions of the sta­te and the inno­va­ti­ve ener­gy of entre­pre­neurs and start-ups. Per­haps it would be con­struc­ti­ve to assu­me that the aim of both the sta­te insti­tu­tions and block­cha­in-based sys­tems is the cre­ation and cura­tion of cer­ta­in „com­mon goods”. The insti­tu­tio­nal ana­ly­sis is sup­po­sed to unco­ver what kind of ‚com­mon goods’ both the­se sphe­res gene­ra­te, how they ope­ra­te, and – most impor­tan­tly – what would be the are­as whe­re public admi­ni­stra­tion and block­cha­in sys­tems can come toge­ther and coope­ra­te for the bene­fit of citizens.

Academic seminar

The pro­ject will inc­lu­de a semi­nar for stu­dents at the Facul­ty of Socio­lo­gy UW. The discus­sion in this cour­se will cover both the the­ore­ti­cal under­pin­nings of the pro­ject and its results.

The basics of block­cha­in tech­no­lo­gies, the­ir main appli­ca­tions, and social, eco­no­mic and poli­ti­cal con­se­qu­en­ces will be revie­wed. Also, social side of block­cha­in mecha­ni­sms and the role of social scien­ces in the­ir ana­ly­sis and deve­lop­ment will be discussed.

The semi­nar will also be the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take a look at how the sta­te-of-the-art IT deve­lop­ment pro­jects work and how socio­lo­gi­sts can con­tri­bu­te to the­se kinds of endeavors.

Recent blog posts on the project

Project author

Pro­ject fun­ded by the „Dia­lo­gue” pro­gram of the Mini­stry of Scien­ce and Higher Education

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