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

ISBN: 978-1-78714-239-8, eISBN: 978-1-78714-238-1

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 17 March 2017

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Citation

Vergne, J. 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, pp. 185-222. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20170000051005

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited

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