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Infrastructural Grind: Introducing Blockchain Technology in the Shipping Domain

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Association for Computing Machinery


In this paper, we present ethnographic data unpacking three different accounts of how Blockchain technology gets introduced into the shipping domain. The results demonstrate that the shipping industry is based upon an information infrastructure with a socio-technical kernel comprising transaction practices between shippers, freight forwarders, ports, shipping lines, and other actors in the shipping industry. These practices are based upon standards, which have evolved over time and are embedded within the installed base of the infrastructure. We find that because of the inertia of the shipping infrastructure, Blockchain technology cannot be seamlessly introduced directly into the shipping domain. Instead, we introduce Infrastructural Grind as the activity by which domains (e.g. shipping) intersect with new technological infrastructures (e.g. Blockchain). Infrastructural grind occurs as a result of various infrastructuring activities taking place at different intersections between the two infrastructures, and is constituted of the sum of these manifestations. We propose that infrastructural grind is enacted through activities expressing elements of consolidation, permeability, and velocity.


Jabbar, Karim; Bjørn, Pernille (2018): Infrastructural Grind: Introducing Blockchain Technology in the Shipping Domain. Proceedings of the 2018 ACM International Conference on Supporting Group Work. DOI: 10.1145/3148330.3148345. Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 297–308. Sanibel Island, Florida, USA