The thing about awards shows is that they have to be planned in advance. On November 30, the ‘Oscars for Web3’ were held at a bleak moment for crypto. The ‘Crypties’, as they're called, took place in Miami, a city whose entertainment industry was sorely missing the crypto entrepreneurs who’d made a habit of renting out nightclubs and luxury yachts. On this occasion, many of the award winners were not even in attendance.
Another conspicuous absence was Sam Bankman-Fried’s. The former CEO of FTX was scheduled to appear before the US House Financial Services Committee this week, but was instead arrested in the Bahamas on Monday, and now awaits extradition; he faces eight charges that range from securities fraud to money laundering. SBF isn’t the only suspected crypto swindler to face US prosecution in recent weeks: there’s also the duo responsible for a mining company called HashFlare, one of the largest fraud cases in the history of Estonia.
The UK, hoping to avoid this kind of tumult, is finalising its regulatory plan for digital assets. It plans to limit international crypto sales into British markets. In the meantime, uneasy investors have already withdrawn $1.5 billion-worth of bitcoin from the crypto exchanges still standing. And Signature Bank, a lender that had grown rapidly on the back of business from FTX and other crypto companies, is looking to offload another $10 billion in deposits tied to digital assets.
Profits are evaporating for firms who bought into the dirtier side of the industry, too. After China’s 2021 crypto mining ban, miners went sniffing around upstate New York; one private equity group famously snatched up an old coal plant to power its rigs. Governor Kathy Hochul has now put a two-year moratorium on all proof-of-work mining that uses fossil fuels. In Texas, another US mining hotspot, legislators remain friendly, but miners are stuck in a deep financial hole. If these companies bail, some fear they will leave behind ‘a wasteland of unfinished sites and abandoned equipment’.
As we await the inevitable film adaptations to come, we offer this month’s curated reading list. It contains reports on the unethical blockchain trials taking place in refugee camps; accounts of how the creation and transference of digital money mediates economic relations; assessments of how CBDCs will impact the global financial order; and much more.
Duplicitous Debtscapes: Unveiling Social Impact Investment for Microfinance
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has been a major player in extending credit to the world's poor, and particularly to smallholder farmers. But as the case of Cambodia suggests, the IFC's impact investments depend on an ideological 'way of seeing' poverty, informed by representations of agrarian landscapes, which mystifies the exploitative relations of microfinance debt.
Inventing the Dark Web: Criminalization of Privacy and the Apocalyptic Turn in the Imaginary of the Web
This study, which analyses nearly 1,000 articles about the deep web published in British newspapers, demonstrates that these technologies were predominantly associated with crime, crypto markets, and immoral content; at the same time, positive uses like protecting privacy and freedom of speech were largely disregarded.
Assetization and the ‘New Asset Geographies’
An asset is both a resource and property: it generates income streams with its sale price, which itself is based on the capitalization of those revenues. Although these income streams can be sliced up and speculated upon, there still has to be something underpinning these financial operations. This paper theorises assetization along these lines to foreground the moments of enclosure and rent extraction implied by the making of a financial asset.
Creatividad y medio ambiente: el lado B de la configuración del mercado del criptoarte
Reflecting on what fundamentally links the art market to technology, this article identifies the notion of originality as the core value that sustains the art market. It then considers the blockchain and NFTs as certificates of originality, keeping in mind their carbon footprint and the electronic waste they generate.
La blockchain: Un commun au service exclusif de l’appropriation ?
If we zoom out, blockchain can be considered a common pool: it gathers and governs a community of validators, who manage public information and potential computing power to validate blocks. On the ground, however, it is more difficult to describe blockchain as a common-pool resource, as the technology was created to allow exclusivity on assets and often leads to speculation. Could this technology ever help manage commons?
Cultures of Digital Finance: The Rise of the Financial Public Sphere
This article maps the cultures and practices related to crypto-finance use in two distinct sectors: the ‘mainstream’ space of retail investors, and the avant-garde space of artists. In the case of ordinary crypto-investors, it reflects on how platformed cultural production is responsible for an alternative financial literacy. In the case of artists, it explores how blockchain-based innovation nurtured a new space for the imagination of finance and welfare.
Crypto and Other Web3 Tech is Being Used Experimentally on At-Risk Communities
Blockchain startups are developing models and patents in settings like refugee camps, where taxes, data protections, and other user rights are diminished. This report looks at three areas – payment, currency, and identification – that show how Web3 technologies fail to address the root social and economic problems these groups are facing, even as they introduce new risks to people who are already disadvantaged.
Money as a Computational Machine
Drawing from the work of Philip Mirowski and Jean Cartelier, this paper zooms in on the monetary operations involved in the creation and transfer of units of account. Is it possible to view these operations as computations that mediate economic relations? Is money a machine designed for social coordination?
Crypto Convulsions, Digital Delusions, and the Inexorable Logic of Finance Capitalism
The code and algorithms of crypto have not immunised cryptocurrency from the vicissitudes of finance capital, but have instead served to exacerbate the concentration of wealth and expand the hegemony of finance, all while further weaponising the troves of data gleaned from everyday transactions.
Central Bank Digital Currencies and the International Payment System: The Demise of the US Dollar?
Despite the innovations a CBDC may bring, the dollar's role will not be affected by the introduction of multiple CBDCs (mCBDCs) alone. Although mCBDC arrangements might decentralise the international payment system, the underlying structures supporting today's unipolar system would not automatically change.