Uneven development, crypto-regionalism, and the (un-)tethering of nature in Quebec

Ed Atkins*, Luca Follis*, Benjamin David Neimark*, Vanessa Thomas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Since emerging in 2009, cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, have captured the imaginations of many investors and users in accumulating private wealth detached from government control and oversight. This article examines how the rise of bitcoin has particular geographies and trajectories of uneven development across the globe. The generation (or ‘mining’) of cryptocurrencies is computationally-intensive, requiring computer hardware, cool air and cheap energy. Adopting the case study of Quebec, Canada, we show how these variables interact to produce a relationship between digital currencies, economic imaginaries and space in the regions where cryptomining is clustered. We argue that these new geographies of cryptocurrency ‘mining’ leave residual marks on the regions where they are located but remain highly mobile – moving from location to location in search of the cheap energy that supports private accumulation. Adopting an illustrative case study of Quebec, Canada, we work to render visible the materiality of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin. Far from existing both nowhere and everywhere, the generation of bitcoin is foregrounded in local contexts and regional economic imaginaries with both spatial and social implications for the cities and towns where cryptomining takes place. We conclude with a call for further research into this emergent ‘crypto-regionalism’ and its consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalGeoforum
Volume122
Early online date14 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • Bitcoin
  • Uneven Development
  • Political Economy
  • Quebec
  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Economic imaginaries
  • Energy demand

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