Drug Trade Facilitator or Financial Disruptor? A Critical Study of Swedish and US Media’s Reporting on Bitcoin and Blockchain

Michael Karlström

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Bitcoin and its underlying technology, the blockchain, has not only given rise to a wave of innovation, but also stirred up considerable controversy. Some have hailed it as the most significant innovation since the internet, while others have dismissed it as a Ponzi scheme. This study looks into how this technology has been portrayed in the mainstream news media in Sweden and the United States. By conducting a critical study of 203 articles from two daily newspapers, the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and the American Washington Post, this thesis has revealed some of the discursive sources of power, dominance, inequality and bias that surround the world of bitcoin and contributed to an improved understanding of how the media creates, reinforces and changes the discourses and what effects that may have.
It was found that the movement of bitcoin’s exchange rate, significant events that are directly or indirectly related to bitcoin and blockchain, as well as previous discourses have been strong driving forces affecting how the discourses have changed over time. The most noteworthy findings, however, appeared when the two countries were compared. Looking at both purely linguistic features (e.g. the most commonly used words and the tone of the articles) as well as discursive practices, it was made obvious that Sweden represents a more conservative and skeptical view, while the US media has adopted a more progressive and open approach. The concept of intertextuality, the two countries’ different views on innovations and contrasting cultural dimensions are possible explanations for these diverging attitudes.
In conclusion, investigating how news media has maintained and reproduced discourse within specific contexts, has allowed us to observe how patterns of particular discourses systematically construct versions of the social world, which are important observations as we are dealing with a situation where the emergence of a new, promising technology is on the line. Further, this study offers insights into the diffusion dynamics of radically innovative technologies, as it points to the fact that the discursive activities of the news media affect the social context of the technology, which in turn affects the diffusion of the technology.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages64
SupervisorsJonas Hedman