Universiteit Leiden

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Blockchain as a Disruptive Technology: A Research Agenda for IR.

dinsdag 9 juli 2019
Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP Den Haag


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About the lecture

The study of international politics cannot ignore changing computing technology. The development of multiple-user mainframe computers in the 1970s allowed governments and firms digitise many administrative tasks and transformed management. Advances in personal computer technology in the 1980s moved computers from workplaces to homes. The development of the Internet in the 1990s greatly lowered the cost of international communication and organisation, providing a catalyst for transnational networks in civil society to flourish (Keck and Sikkink 1997) and fundamentally changing politics in fields such as human rights, development and the environment.
Most recently, social media has disrupted traditional methods of communication between governments and citizens, providing a powerful platform to mobilise against incumbent regimes, be it in the Arab Spring, the yellow vests, or supporters of the candidacy of Donald Trump in the 2016 US Presidential election. While much of the attention paid to blockchain thus far has been related to cryptocurrencies and its function managing transactions between pseudonymious actors, blockchain’s potential is imagined as a global networked computer platform that a wide range of programmes, managing many areas of interaction between humans, machines, and humans and machines.
Where is the contribution from IR to this debate? Economics, politics, sociology and law all have international dimensions, and within IR there are sub-fields that correspond directly to each of these disciplines, reinforcing the assertion that IR has a pertinent intervention to make. In short, blockchain is foreseen as the foundations upon which a fully digital society will be organised, with numerous aspects of everyday life relying in one way or another on the technology.

About the speaker

Robert Kissack has been at IBEI since 2008. His research profile is at the intersection of the foreign policy of the European Union (EU) and international organisation. More specifically, it has centered on the EU as an actor in the multilateral system and his book Pursuing Effective Multilateralism… (Palgrave 2010) was one of the first in this field. He specialises in examining the capacity of the EU to operate in many different multilateral organisations, including the ILO, FAO, UN General Assembly and Security Council, the WTO and the IMF. He has worked in two research projects in this area, EU-Perform (funded by the European Science Foundation) and EUN-NET, a brand new Jean Monnet Network (2017-2019). He also works closely with colleagues at IBEI, including Esther Barbé, Oriol Costa and Elisabeth Johansson-Nogués in many projects on European foreign policy.He is also the Head of Studies and Coordinator of the IR programme at IBEI.

About the seminars

The Diplomacy and Global Affairs (DGA) Research Seminar is a series launched by the Research Group on Diplomacy and Global Affairs at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs. The seminars of internationally acknowledged guest researchers and faculty members deal with current research topics in diplomacy, international relations, global affairs, and political economy broadly conceived and target a broad audience through their interdisciplinary focus.


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