"In November 1, 2008, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto posted a research paper to an obscure cryptography listserv describing his design for a new digital currency that he called bitcoin. None of the list's veterans had heard of him, and what little information could be gleaned was murky and contradictory. In an online profile, he said he lived in Japan. His email address was from a free German service. Google searches for his name turned up no relevant information; it was clearly a pseudonym. But while Nakamoto himself may have been a puzzle, his creation cracked a problem that had stumped cryptographers for decades. The idea of digital money - convenient and untraceable, liberated from the oversight of governments and banks - had been a hot topic since the birth of the Internet. Cypherpunks, the 1990s movement of libertarian cryptographers, dedicated themselves to the project. Yet every effort to create virtual cash had foundered. Ecash, an anonymous system launched in the early 1990s by cryptographer David Chaum, failed in part because it depended on the existing infrastructures of government and credit card companies. Other proposals followed - bit gold, RPOW, b-money - but none got off the ground.
One of the core challenges of designing a digital currency involves something called the double-spending problem. If a digital dollar is just information, free from the corporeal strictures of paper and metal, what's to prevent people from copying and pasting it as easily as a chunk of text, 'spending' it as many times as they want? The conventional answer involved using a central clearinghouse to keep a real-time ledger of all transactions - ensuring that, if someone spends his last digital dollar, he can't then spend it again. The ledger prevents fraud, but it also requires a trusted third party to administer it.
Bitcoin did away with the third party by publicly distributing the ledger, what Nakamoto called the 'block chain.' Users willing to devote CPU power to running a special piece of software would be called miners and would form a network to maintain the block chain collectively. In the process, they would also generate new currency. Transactions would be broadcast to the network, and computers running the software would compete to solve irreversible cryptographic puzzles that contain data from several transactions. The first miner to solve each puzzle would be awarded 50 new bitcoins, and the associated block of transactions would be added to the chain. The difficulty of each puzzle would increase as the number of miners increased, which would keep production to one block of transactions roughly every 10 minutes. In addition, the size of each block bounty would halve every 210,000 blocks - first from 50 bitcoins to 25, then from 25 to 12.5, and so on. Around the year 2140, the currency would reach its preordained limit of 21 million bitcoins."
(Benjamin Wallace, 23 November 2011, Wired Magazine)
"A 1987 video has been unearthed featuring a 25-year-old squash-playing, accountancy graduate John Key. The bright-eyed Mr Key features in an early Close-Up story called Big Dealers. The 'portrait of 80s job du jour: foreign exchange dealer', shows the now Prime Minister in 'the pit' (trading room) as a senior forex dealer. 'Forex dealing is a work hard, play hard world with an image of rich brats who wreck restaurants but always somewhere else,' says the reporter. 'I am not denying that, that has happened and I guess that will happen again in the future but I personally perform in that way,' Mr Key responded."
(Deanna Harris, 02 Sep 2010, MediaWorks TV)
"Ours is an existence characterized by cultural flux and political economic flows, by the virtualization of place and the acceleration of time, the disembodiment of labor, the fluidity of identity, the 'conceptualization' of art, the etherealization of communication. Yet even these financial flows and digital networks rely on physical supports, on material storage devices and infrastructures, and embodied interactions with human actors. This seminar examines media as material objects, as things, as symbolically charged artifacts, as physical supports for communication. In the first third of the semester we'll explore various theoretical frameworks and methodologies - from 'thing theory' to media archaeology - that can be useful in studying the material culture of media. The second third will be dedicated to custom-designed 'plug-ins' that pertain to students' individual research interests. And in the final third, we'll work collaboratively on the creation of (an) online exhibition(s) of material media - an endeavor we'll approach as a form of 'multimodal scholarship,' an alternative means of performing and publicizing academic work. The particular format of our project will also provide an opportunity for us to think through the central concepts of our class: what does it mean to mediate the materiality of media objects, and to create a virtual exhibition that addresses their physicality?"
(Shannon Mattern, 2010)
"...The social axiomatic of modern societies is caught between two poles and is constantly oscillating from one pole to the other. Born of decoding and deterritorialization, on the ruins of the despotic machine, these societies are caught between the Urstaat that they would like to resuscitate as an overcoding and reterritorializing unity, and the unfettered flows that carry them toward an absolute threshold. They recode with all their might, with world-wide dictatorship, local dictators, and an all-powerful police, while decoding - or allowing the decoding of - the fluent quantities of their capital and their populations. They are torn in two directions: archaism and futurism, neoarchaism and ex-futurism, paranoia and schizophrenia. They vacillate between two poles: the paranoiac despotic sign, the sign-signifier of the despot that they try to revive as a unit of code; and the sign-figure of the schizo as a unit of decoded flux, a schiz, a point-sign or flow-break. They try to hold on to the one, but they pour or flow out through the otaxher. They are continually behind or ahead of themselves."
(Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 260)
"The unit of this production process is not the firm, but the business project. The firm continues to be the legal unit of capital accumulation. But since the value of the firm ultimately depends on its valuation in the stock market, the unit of capital accumulation (the firm) itself becomes a node in a global network of financial flows. In this economy, the dominant layer is the global financial market, where all earnings from all activities and countries end up being traded. This global financial market works only partly according to market rules. It is shaped and moved by information turbulences of various origins, processed and transmitted almost instantly by telecommunicated, information systems, in the absence of the institutional regulation of global capital flows."
(Manuel Castells, p.9)
. Castells, M. (2000). Materials For An Exploratory Theory Of The Network Society. London, British Journal of Sociology www.tandf.co.uk/journals.