March 25 2021

A Minderoo Centre Webinar on William Magnuson’s book, Blockchain Democracy: Technology, Law and the Rule of the Crowd, Cambridge

Blockchain — or distributed-ledger — technology stands at the intersection of three great themes of modern society: democracy, money and technology.

In essence it’s a way of democratising money — using cryptography to improve economic processes and give users greater control over their information, data and lives. In that sense it’s an ultimate example of tech ‘solutionism’, the belief that for every social problem there is a technological solution.

In his book, and in conversation with sociologist Vili Lehdonvirta and legal scholar Jennifer Cobbe, Professor Magnuson discusses progress so far on the road to this dream.

William Magnuson is an associate professor at Texas A&M Law School, where he teaches and writes about corporations, technology and finance. Prior to joining Texas A&M, he taught law at Harvard, worked as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell and served as a journalist in the Rome bureau of the Washington Post.

Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute. He is an economic sociologist whose research focuses on apps, plat-forms, and marketplaces — how they are governed, how they shape the organisation of economic activities, and with what implications for workers, consumers, businesses, and policy. He is the principal investigator of iLabour, a major research project on online freelancing and the gig economy and has also led research projects on online labour markets’ effects in rural areas and crowdworkers’ skill development. His other recent research takes a critical look at Bitcoin and blockchain.

Dr Jennifer Cobbe is a Research Associate and Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Technology (Computer Laboratory) at the University of Cambridge, where she is a member of the Compliant and Accountable Systems research group. She holds a PhD in Law and an LLM in Law and Governance from Queen’s University, Belfast. Her general interests are in critical interdisciplinary work on law, technology and society – the socio-political power of tech companies, the role of their business models and ideological underpinnings in transforming society, and the structural conditions produced through new and emerging technologies.

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