Bitcoin is difficult to categorize and indeed has been associated with 112 different labels in the British media (e.g., “private money,” “commodity”) – most of which poorly describe bitcoin. Specifically, our analyses of 674 media articles, focusing on the relationship between labeling and categorization, identify classification inconsistencies at three levels: within clusters of labels, between labels and categories, and between category attributes. These inconsistencies hamper categorization based on attribute similarity, audience goals, and causal models, respectively. We identify four factors that nurture this categorical anarchy and conclude with a call for research on the socioeconomic revolution heralded by blockchain technology.
The authors would like to acknowledge the generous feedback provided by the reviewers and the three editors (Rodolphe Durand, Nina Granqvist, and Anna Tyllström). This article also benefited from the input of participants at the Bank of Canada research seminar and the iSTOR research workshop at Ivey Business School. This research was supported by an SSHRC grant, an Ontario Government Early Researcher Award, and the Scotiabank Digital Banking Lab at Ivey Business School. An earlier draft was nominated for the Best Conference Paper Award at the 2016 Strategic Management Society conference.
Vergne, J.P. and Swain, G. (2017), "Categorical Anarchy in the UK? The British Media’s Classification of Bitcoin and the Limits of Categorization", From Categories to Categorization: Studies in Sociology, Organizations and Strategy at the Crossroads (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 51), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 185-222. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20170000051005
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