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Money Code SpaceHidden Power in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Decentralisation$
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Jack Parkin

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197515075

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197515075.001.0001

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Programming Politics

Programming Politics

(p.92) 5 Programming Politics
Money Code Space

Jack Parkin

Oxford University Press

Chapter 5 outlines the community of developers who have contributed to Bitcoin’s source code. Drawing from ethnographic data and existing political economy theorisations of cryptocurrencies, the governance of the Bitcoin codebase is understood through obligatory passage points found among key individuals and groups involved in the creation of Bitcoin. The consensus model for making changes to the Bitcoin software shows how code is bound up with political tensions that arise through coordinating geographies of production. Pressures between different stakeholders are exposed to show how a stagnation of decision-making in code development and the increased likeliness of the project forking as it scales demands degrees of centralisation at the architectural level of cryptocurrency design so actions can be resolved and implemented. The overall political framework for altering Bitcoin’s code is described as senatorial governance: a (de)centralised model where bureaucratic parties compete to change the monetary policy (codified rules) of the protocol.

Keywords:   forking, senatorial governance, GitHub, open source software, block size debate, Bitcoin Core, Bitcoin cash, version control, segregated witness, mining pools

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