Mapping the uneven geographies of digital phenomena: The case of blockchain

Matthew Zook, Michael McCanless

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

4 Scopus citations


Digital phenomena pose unique challenges to social science researchers investigating the impact of new and changing technologies. In part, this challenge derives from the constantly evolving practices, actants, and geographies enrolled in the digital. When these phenomena are coupled with over-the-top expectations and media hype, initial impressions often mask the complicated and nuanced ways new technologies are put to use. Blockchain (and its original application Bitcoin) represent one of these new, unstable digital phenomena that simultaneously captures public imagination and generates powerful discourses of disruption and change. One way of clarifying the messiness of technologies like blockchain is to ground its practices within the materiality of geography. The DIGO framework proposed in this article uses four broad categories—discourses (measured via Twitter), infrastructures (indicated by Bitcoin mining), groupings (based on firms and exchanges), and outcomes (measured by initial coin offerings)—located in geographic space. Each category is meant to provide insight on blockchain as it unfolds across space and scale. The same framework can guide research on other digital phenomena, based on appropriate measures for each of the four DIGO foci.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Specialist publicationCanadian Geographer
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks to Ian Spangler for making the map featured in Figure 1 and to Joe Blankenship for generating the data shown in Table 3 . This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Geography and Spatial Sciences Award #1853718).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Canadian Association of Geographers / L'Association canadienne des géographes


  • blockchain
  • cryptocurrency
  • digital geography
  • financial geography
  • methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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