Increasingly, blockchains and distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) are posed to impact economic futures and urban governance. New forms of human settlement are emerging as a result of and in service to cryptocurrency, curiously concentrating in areas with colonial ties such as Latin America and the global South. Technologists and those who can pay them are largely driving these discourses and decisions forward, while regulators and regular citizens struggle to catch up. If the buzz around blockchain opens the power to dream new techno-economic futures, who has the power and privilege to dream? This paper explores the intersection of digital technology with alternative economic visions in Puerto Rico, using principles of commoning and cooperativism in contestation to venture capitalism, US imperialism, and new crypto-colonialism. We echo Hardt and Negri (2017: 111) in calling advocates for alternative economies to “immerse ourselves into the heart of technologies and attempt to make them our own against the forces of domination that deploy technologies against us.” The goals of this collaborative research are to inform more equitable tech policy legislation in Puerto Rico, to caution against potential co-optation and techno-fixes, and to establish frameworks for cooperative experimentation using digital technologies including DLTs.
Cooperativism as Contestation to Crypto-colonialism in Puerto Rico
Jillian Crandall is an architect and lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her work focuses on the implications of digital/physical infrastructures on space and lives. She is an advocate for data justice, spatial justice, and design justice, which are the aims of her critical urban research and design practice, Contra+.
Andrew Mercado Vázquez is an attorney based in Puerto Rico and admitted to practice before the US District Court of Puerto Rico. He currently presides over the Bar Association of Puerto Rico’s Commission on Blockchain and is the vice president of its Cooperative Law Commission. His areas of work and study are intellectual property law, cooperativism, Puerto Rico’s political status, and the legal implications of blockchain adoption in the public and private sectors.
Jillian Crandall, Andrew Mercado Vázquez; Cooperativism as Contestation to Crypto-colonialism in Puerto Rico. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2022; 121 (3): 628–641. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-9826046
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