Misplaced trust: the politics of cryptography from privacy to blockchains
LE3 .A278 2020
Master of Arts
Social and Political Thought
Cryptography is an increasingly prevalent means of securing communication, information, and transmissions. Its politics, however, have been rarely considered. This thesis remedies that in three ways. First, it maps the discourse of cryptography through the conventional opposition of privacy and security. Comparing two debates in American politics, it argues that encryption technologies correspond with a shift from disciplinary monitoring to the mass surveillance of governmentality. Second, this thesis considers how cryptography mediates relationships. Examining cryptographic mechanisms themselves, it argues that encryption processes intermingle disparate epistemic orders to political effect. They enact a distinction between those who can and cannot read a message, disposing actors to treat those in the latter category as adversaries. Third, it extends these findings to blockchain technologies. Situating those at the intersection of the security practices and technologies that define cryptography, it suggests they constitute a novel dispositif which protocologically produces knowledge to control contingent engagements.
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