Research note: Transitions with/in: Of doing insider research in the blockchain/energy community

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Some research problems in Science and Technology studies don’t present themselves readily; they are high mountains to climb. Anecdotalevidence might be abundant, suggesting that somethinginteresting is going on inside a certain field, for example, inside boardrooms, expert councils and hacker chatrooms. However, no validated “primarysource” exists, not to mention aggregated data to answer pressing researchquestions in these fields exhibiting high entry barriers. This leaves these areas ofresearch as an obvious choice for qualitative, ethnographic approaches.However, ethnographers rarely undertake collaborative projects with the ““ideologicalOther”, like investment bankers, law firms, or the military”, leading to a bias that is hard tojustify (Niewöhner 2016). Science and technology scholars and other socialscience researchers are then faced with two solutions: Either, climb anothermountain, that is, refrain from entering these fields, or look deeply in the methodologicaltoolbox to find suitable equipment. One suitable methodology is insider research, wrought with all kinds of dilemmas, choicesand anxieties around credibility, validity and ethics. If we take out this tool– and I have done so – we need to handle it with care. One way of doing that is to be explicit about how we got to our findings. Sticking with the rock-climbing metaphor, we need to describethe way up the mountain. This is what a methodography does (Greiffenhagen 2015,2016). Derived from the Greek met-hodos-graphia, it describes (graphia) the pursuit of (met) the (knowledge)path (hodos).

This research note considers insider research methodographically. The object of study is the emergence of blockchain technology in the energy sector in the years 2016 - 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

This research note is part of a forthcoming cover essay of my PhD thesis on information and energy systems in a power perspective -
please cite chapter 3 of the cover essay (see


  • ethnography
  • research methods
  • phronetic social science
  • insider research
  • self-ethnography
  • autoethnography
  • energy transition
  • digitization
  • post-truth
  • smart energy systems
  • blockchain
  • information systems
  • communities of practice

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