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Doctoral thesis (Dissertations and theses)
Another Wild West Web for Critical Information Systems Research: A Sceptical-Empirical Approach to the Ethereum Mainnet
Smethurst, Reilly


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Keywords :
actor-network theory; blockchain; crypto-assets; digital wallet; Ethereum; scepticism
Abstract :
[en] The early twenty-first century is marked by the 2007 Global Financial Crisis and the 2013 Snowden revelations about online surveillance. This period cursed many, yet it smiled upon developers of financial technologies and blockchain networks. Led by Bitcoin in 2009 and Ethereum in 2015, blockchain networks are treated as potential panaceas for a range of societal ills. For the problem of crisis-riven financial institutions, blockchain developers propose Decentralised Finance. For the problem of online surveillance, they propose Self-Sovereign Identity. In response to Big Tech companies’ exploitation of content creators, they propose NFTs. In response to everyday mundanity and the limits of the physical world, they propose avatar-based role-play and simulated environments – the metaverse. Meanwhile, critics deride blockchain solutions as potentially worse than the status quo – a passage from the World Wide Web, dominated by Big Tech companies, to a new Wild West Web of pseudonymity, hyper-volatility, and “degens” (degenerates). Critical Information Systems researchers are spoilt for choice. This cumulative thesis consists of a dissertation plus six publications. The dissertation conceives the Ethereum Mainnet as an actor-network rather than a cause of empowerment and emancipation. The six publications use sceptical-empirical methods to investigate Ethereum’s close ties with Decentralised Finance, Self-Sovereign Identity, the OpenSea NFT marketplace, and the metaverse. A prescriptive or normative dimension – a moral Cause – is absent from the six publications. The dissertation defends this absence, and it encourages critical Information Systems researchers to set aside ideologies that posit Ethereum as a Cause of individual empowerment or world improvement. Critical researchers should instead follow the network’s transactions and powerful actors.
Research center :
Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) > FINATRAX - Digital Financial Services and Cross-organizational Digital Transformations
Disciplines :
Management information systems
Library & information sciences
Author, co-author :
Smethurst, Reilly ;  University of Luxembourg > Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SNT) > FINATRAX
Language :
Title :
Another Wild West Web for Critical Information Systems Research: A Sceptical-Empirical Approach to the Ethereum Mainnet
Defense date :
29 August 2023
Institution :
Unilu - University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Degree :
Docteur en Informatique
Promotor :
President :
Jury member :
State, Radu 
Nilsson, Johan
Strüker, Jens
Focus Area :
Security, Reliability and Trust
FnR Project :
FNR13342933 > Gilbert Fridgen > DFS > Paypal-fnr Pearl Chair In Digital Financial Services > 01/01/2020 > 31/12/2024 > 2019
Funders :
FNR - Fonds National de la Recherche


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