University of Sussex
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Cryptocurrencies and beyond: using design science research to demonstrate diverse applications of blockchains

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posted on 2023-06-09, 20:50 authored by Steve HuckleSteve Huckle
This thesis investigates blockchain technology and whether its mutually cooperative topology and commons-based peer production practices have implications for society because, instead of the traditional top-down, centralised model of governance, blockchains represent an alternative way of collaborating. Much of the literature anticipates the vast potential of the permanent and publicly auditable nature of the propagated values of blockchains. Indeed, writers have supposed that the smart contract capabilities of the technology may prove revolutionary for areas beyond that of the economic domain targeted by the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which is the first successful use-case of a blockchain. However, few advanced use cases beyond that economic realm have materialised; this research demonstrates such usecases. This thesis asks four research questions. The first asks whether blockchains can help reduce energy consumption. The second asks whether blockchains can help digitise the informal sector. The third asks whether blockchains can help counter fake news. The final question asks whether blockchains can help address criticisms of humanitarian aid. Those topics are four amongst many urgent problems currently facing humankind, and therefore, the overarching research question of this thesis becomes whether blockchains can help humanity. This work advances the supposed potential of blockchains proposed by current literature by using design science research to create software artefacts that propose solutions for incentivising energy efficiency, fighting financial fraud, providing digital provenance and adding trust to humanitarian aid reporting. By demonstrating blockchain-based software solutions in those four topic areas, this thesis concludes that blockchains can help humanity. However, if they are to help society address some of its problems, blockchains have significant technological and organisational barriers to overcome. Furthermore, the idea that blockchains can help humanity is a form of techno-determinism and this research concludes that it is impossible to solve every issue by diversifying technical operations; humankind must also change political, economic, and cultural goals, too. Nevertheless, this thesis has implications for regulators, despite the barriers and false solutionism offered by technology because, rather than the trusted lawmakers and experts that nations used to look up to as oracles of truth, now it may be possible to look to blockchains, instead.


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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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