From its origins in virtual financial transactions, emerging initiatives are seeking to acquire a new identity for blockchain as capable of addressing anxieties over the capacity of digital media to permanently and accurately store information. In this article, we explore the ensuing mediation between blockchain enterprises and new professional communities to which they are catering. Drawing on thematic analysis, we analyze how this process is being carried out through the discursive construction of trust, leveraged rhetorically in academic, trade, and news publications to extend an application for financial transactions to cultural institutions. We describe how trust is used not only to mediate the introduction of an application that prioritizes decentralization and cryptography, but is the turf on which traditional institutions are staking a claim as the trustworthy managers of digital records through their use of blockchain. The concept of the archival imaginary—a vision of what archives and blockchain should be and mean that pivots on imagined needs and technological capacities based on the current information ecology, institutional control, and expert systems—offers a way to illuminate this process.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank the reviewers for their insightful guidance. We also wish to express our gratitude to Columbia University faculty and colleagues as well as the Tow Center for Digital Journalism for being so generous with their advice and time. In addition, we wish to thank Prof. Ilan Talmud for his thoughtful suggestions. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
© The Author(s) 2019.
- socio-technical systems
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science