Simon Perdrisat

Political motivations and technical objects: Understanding the participation of developers in the Bitcoin project

This work seeks to know whether political motivations are at the origin of the actors’ involvement in an information technology project, Bitcoin.

We will study the motivations of the developers who participated in the development of the Bitcoin open source software source code. Bitcoin is an electronic currency that can be exchanged over the Internet, the first version of which was published in 2009.

This work will address the following elements. On the one hand, a technology cannot be neutral and certain values, even a way of seeing the world, are attached to it. Moreover, technology is changing the field of possibilities, sometimes radically, and the most striking contemporary example is certainly digitization and the Internet. Moreover, digitization, and in particular the Internet, is creating new spaces, which can be qualified as public spaces. More specifically, it is the code itself and the information that produces the spaces. This code modifies physical space and our perception of it, while also modifying the space produced by the code. Finally, the technical tools and systems produce these spaces and define their rules.

Designing software requires high skills and long working hours, i.e. human and labor capital, but relatively little financial capital. The distribution of software or the provision of a digital service has virtually no marginal cost.

In this context, this research project examines Bitcoin as a movement that used digital space and code with global political effects. It seeks to understand the intentions of the actors, in particular the reasons for their involvement in this project.

We will focus primarily on the developers, i.e. the people who participated in writing the source code for the Bitcoin software. The developers of the Bitcoin software designed and made available a software allowing the exchange of a digital currency among the users of this software. The source code defines the rules governing the system. The system is otherwise autonomous in the sense that, through an economic incentive game, they motivate the actors to provide the resources necessary for the functioning of a decentralized network, thus dispensing with a central server.

The developers, being the origin of a system, it is therefore particularly relevant to know their motivations. Consequently, we can articulate our research question as follows:

Are there political motivations behind the participation of developers in the development of the Bitcoin software source code?

This study is done but I’m not satisfied yet with the form. I want to make a sharper version. Please contact me to get a copy of the current version.

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