published: 23 June 2020
Frontiers in Blockchain | www.frontiersin.org 1June 2020 | Volume 3 | Article 29
Consultant, United Kingdom
Open University of Catalonia, Spain
University of Nicosia, Cyprus
This article was submitted to
Blockchain for Good,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Blockchain
Received: 29 January 2020
Accepted: 11 May 2020
Published: 23 June 2020
Manski S (2020) Distributed Ledger
Technologies, Value Accounting, and
the Self Sovereign Identity.
Front. Blockchain 3:29.
Distributed Ledger Technologies,
Value Accounting, and the Self
Department of Global Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States
Technological activists are designing blockchains and other distributed ledger
technologies to challenge extractive value-accounting and identity management in global
capitalism. This paper investigates how the new possibilities afforded through distributed
ledger technology make possible an alternative future of generative value accounting and
self-sovereign identity practices.
Keywords: self-sovereign identity, blockchain, holochain, distributed ledger technology, critical accounting, social
movements, sociotechnical imaginary, value
“If power is increasingly leveraged through online and mobile infrastructures-both on the part of
movements and on the part of states-then some of the most important (and radical) movements will
emerge around the use of those powerful technologies in societies.” (Ilten and McInerney, 2019, p. 210).
The problem with the logic of capitalism is that everything, including healthy social relationships, a
stable climate, having meaning in life, etc. are only considered part of the value equation when
it impacts proﬁt. Technological activists are rejecting the logic of capitalism and insisting on
creating a world where humans and living systems thrive, and therefore are developing new ways
to recognize value.
Valuation is a social process, and accounting is a social practice (Callon, 1998; Boltanski and
Thévenot, 2006; Callon et al., 2007; Knorr Cetina and Preda, 2012; Aspers and Dodd, 2015).
Technological systems have shaped accounting in every setting, including the construction of
markets, capital raising, algorithm pricing, digital platform services, and corporate organization.
Some of these transformations have been the subjects of intensive study; research on others is
lacking. This paper deals with new digital valuation technologies that could transform values and
valuations within institutions in which valuation takes place. The same technologies will allow for
the reclamation of our digital identities and real reputation, which is necessary for the trust required
for online organizing. Technological activists are gaining momentum in their mission to design and
use digital technologies for a world beyond capitalism. In this future, people, nature, and things are
not valued by the market, but rather by their capacity to further human ﬂourishing and account
for planetary limitations. These eﬀorts are part of three contemporary historical determinants
recognized by technological activists: ﬁrst, the need to evade state repression; second, the need
to maximize limited resources; and third, the need to create eﬀective institutional solutions despite
past failures to do just that.
The construction of each accounting technology is mortared by ideology (Dillard, 1991). The
dominant ideology of our age is capitalism. Everyday material technologies of accounting (written
Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
reports, techniques, books of accounts, pictures, charts) make
possible the practice of capitalist governance and corresponding
modes of social control. Accounting technologies have material
agency within large sociotechnical networks because they enable
action at a distance (Robson, 1992), and they make “invisible”
objects visible (MacKenzie, 2009). Inscriptions of accounts enable
the modern state and institutions to “govern at a distance” and
make present things, ideas, and people in “centers of calculation”
(Latour, 1987; Miller, 1990).
“. . . accounting cannot be independent of its social conditions.
Under capitalism, the moving force of accounting lies in political
economy—in class contradictions. Accounting is made, in part,
by adjustment to the economic needs of the ruling class.”
(Catchpowle and Cooper, 1999, p. 712).
Tinker (1985) agrees that under capitalism accounting
technology is a “logic for appropriating material production,”
“a way of rationalizing or explaining away the appropriation
of the production of one social class by members of another”
as “an intellectual and pragmatic tool in social domination”
(p. 100). This understanding of accounting calls on scholars
interested in building a world free of economic exploitation
to understand how social movements and the technologists
involved are creating new technologies of valuation and personal
identity reﬂecting an emancipatory imaginary of the future
Dillard argues that a “fundamental change in the underlying
economic structure must occur before change can occur in
accounting technology” (p. 24), but what if technological activists
within social movements can reverse this historical process and
strategically radically redesign accounting technology; imbuing
new accounting technology with favorable aﬀordances that give
it transformative material agency to fundamentally change the
economic structure? The strategic design of technology has
long been a part of activist repertoires. The use of value
accounting to demonstrate exploitation and inequality against
capitalist opponents is commonplace. It can be found among
trade unionists and socialists (Gallhofer and Haslam, 2003), anti-
sweatshop and fair-trade activists (Bartley and Child, 2014), anti-
corporate globalization campaigners (Juris, 2007), and others.
What is new in this historical moment are the emancipatory
aﬀordances of modern digital systems of value accounting and
digital identity enabled by distributed ledger technologies or
DLTs (i.e., blockchain and holochain).
An outline of this paper follows (see Figure 1). Part 1 describes
the sociotechnical imaginary of a commons-oriented global social
movement. Part 2 reviews what we know about how value is
accounted for in capitalism, introduces a theoretical framework
for understanding socio-economic objects within capitalist
value accounting compared to commons value accounting, and
includes a discussion on the tendency in capitalism toward
increasing complexity. Part 3 discusses the aﬀordances of
blockchain technology, how we might begin to use the material
agency of DLTs to shift the organization of value, and a
discussion of self-sovereign identity’s role in this process. Part
4 explores the possible futures of value accounting as glimpsed
FIGURE 1 | Transformation occurring within capitalism as social movements
combine with new technologies.
in the MetaCurrency project, Deep Wealth, Holochain, and the
distributed application (hApp) Personas. This paper concludes
with a vision of the future in which a global movement of
entrepreneurs, cooperative members, and technological activists
use a new form of value accounting to move beyond capitalism
and create the next system for the beneﬁt of all.
PART 1. THE SOCIOTECHNICAL
IMAGINARY OF A COMMONS-ORIENTED
GLOBAL SOCIAL MOVEMENT
Globally, hundreds of millions of people are rising and
demanding that more than proﬁt be valued (Della Porta et al.,
2015). The determination of what is valuable is indicative of how
societies can stay together, and what is valued demonstrates our
collective social capacity and interdependence upon each other.
People create technologies enabling their vision of the future and
once created that technology does indeed expand what is possible
in the future. Blockchain technology and the post-blockchain
DLTs that followed the ﬁrst Bitcoin blockchain (Nakamoto, 2008)
are excellent examples of how sociotechnical imaginaries are put
into practice through the design of new technologies.
The question here is, “How do distributed ledger technologies,
a new set of technologies that include blockchain and post-
blockchain systems, shape visions of the future, and how do these
visions in turn inﬂuence the construction of new technologies?”
Several approaches from the futures discourse could be taken to
study the social and institutional practice of value accounting.
For instance, causal layered analysis (CLA) could be useful
for mapping and analyzing a number of competing discourses
related to layers of worldview and metaphor (Inayatullah, 1998;
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
Inayatullah and Milojevic, 2015), or future empirical research
could seek to quantify the multiple dimensions of trust within
each technological accounting system and how that impacts user
outcomes (Lander and Cooper, 2017). However, the advantage of
making use of the concept of the sociotechnical imaginary in this
theory paper is that it oﬀers a framework for understanding how
a technologist’s vision of the ideal future inﬂuences their design
choices in the present (Jasanoﬀ and Kim, 2009).
Jasanoﬀ and Kim label technologist’s utopian vision of
the future the “sociotechnical imaginary” (2009). This phrase
incorporates the concept of the “sociotechnical” with that of
the imaginary. In the ﬁeld of Science and Technology Studies
(STS) the term sociotechnical is used to indicate that technology
is neither wholly socially determined nor deriving from an
essential internal logic, “Technologies and technical practices
are understood as durable (but not immutable) assemblages of
social relation and technical artifacts” (Dunbar-Hester, 2019, p.
83). There is a lively discussion among technologists on how to
use distributed ledger technology to realize a collective vision
of a better future. The ﬁndings rely on grounded theory-based
interpretations of numerous formal and informal interviews with
technologists. Technologists shared an agreement on several
standard components of a global technological commonwealth,
the movement’s emancipatory sociotechnical imaginary (Manski,
2017). This shared imaginary consists of a post-capitalist
society where communities of mutual interest cooperate in the
construction of institutions of regenerative economic relations.
This movement of technologists has a strong faith in serendipity
because they believe the necessary pieces will fall together if the
correct intentions are directed outward and if the participants are
mindful of the opportunities that can be pulled inward. These
principles of technological design include:
→Technological design should incorporate
→Technological design should be modeled on natural
→Technological design should enable the redeﬁnition of value
(ex. Distributed Value Accounting1)
→Technological design should enable radically democratic
coordination and governance
→Technological design should allow for the growth of a
cooperative commons as the desirable future.
PART 2. HOW VALUE IS RECOGNIZED
There is a renewal of interest among political economists and
others in the role the imagination plays in shaping our vision
of the future. Studies of future imaginaries have been conducted
in the ﬁelds of climate engineering, body enhancement (Roco
and Bainbridge, 2002), nanotechnology (Fiedeler et al., 2010),
and synthetic biology (Giese et al., 2014). Through the use
1See Manski, S. G., and Bauwens, M. (2020). Reimagining new socio-technical
economics through the application of distributed ledger technologies. Frontiers in
of our imagination and anticipatory thinking, we can build a
bridge from our current present to the desired future present.
When we make statements about the desired future, we are
making an intervention in the present (Lösch, 2006), because
future scenarios, once articulated, inﬂuence political debate and
policy decisions (Selin, 2007). It is essential to recognize that
people engaged in imagining the future bring to this process
their ideology, interests, and positions of power within society
(Brown et al., 2000). Every network architecture hides a power
structure, “we can be a lot more nuanced in the design and usage
of technologies by being explicit about the values we imprint in
our economic systems” (DisCO.coop, 2019, p. 13). The dominant
future imaginary is capitalist, but a commons movement is
working on using blockchain technology to transform the nature
of capitalist value accounting.
This section brieﬂy reviews the literature on how value is
currently accounted for under capitalism, including a discussion
on the tendency in capitalism toward increasing complexity.
As many researchers have observed, accounting is not neutral
nor separate from prevailing economic ideology (Knights and
Collinson, 1987; Catchpowle and Smyth, 2016). Critical to
capitalism, new accounting and production technologies and
organizational forms are invented to increase productivity,
reduce the costs of production and manage the resulting
processes and complexities (Cooper, 2015), “The only
characteristics of concern are those associated with changes
in the economic objects.” (Dillard, 1991, p. 20).
The logic of capitalism derives from the drive to maximize
proﬁt (see Table 2). What is produced is driven by what can be
proﬁtably sold on the market, and production decisions are made
by the quite small category of people—capitalists—who own
and control the means of production. The labor of production
is completed by wage laborers who must sell their labor to
capitalists to survive, as they receive bank-credit money in return
In Capital V1, Marx (2019) states what has value is only
that which can be used to produce commodities that can
be sold for proﬁt in the market; this form of value is
called exchange value. Such a market can only work with the
existence of money as a material representation of value. It
is the circulation of money as capital, the transformation of
nature, and wage labor into commodities that have exchange
value that drives capitalist economies. Marx envisioned a
mechanization process that we now call modernization by which
scientiﬁc knowledge and technology come to be more important
factors in production. Competition inspires technological and
organizational innovations that make value unstable and
a “perpetually evolving inner connectivity (an internal or
dialectical relation) between value as deﬁned in the realm
of circulation in the market and value as constantly being
re-deﬁned through revolutions in the realm of production.”
(Harvey, 2018), “Forces of production and social relations—two
diﬀerent sides of the development of the social individual—
appear to capital as mere means and are merely means for it
to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they
are the material conditions to blow this foundation sky-high.”
(Marx, 1993 [1857-8], p. 705-6). Technological innovations also
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
involve greater systemwide complexity, which carries its own
challenges in part because deﬁning the concept of complexity
is a matter of debate (Pryor, 1996; Rosser, 1999). Hodgson
(2003) deﬁnes complexity as systemically interconnected and
interactive variety within a structured system, “By this deﬁnition,
increasing economic complexity means a growing diversity of
interactions between human beings and between people and their
technology.” (p. 472).
Early into the study of technology, Mumford (1996)
recognized that technologies represent complex layers of
objectiﬁed intentions that embody cultural artifacts into technical
systems. As technological systems change over time, the
original design choices gradually solidify and become viewed
as timeless. These systems become interlocked and exert
power over social systems and intuitions (Hughes, 1987).
Our institutions are challenged by increasing complexity,
and the digitization of the economy has accelerated this
process (DeSanctis and Poole, 1994). The interconnectedness
of complex systems makes outcomes more diﬃcult to predict
and causes negative consequences (Penow, 1986; Grabowski and
Roberts, 1999). Massive amounts of information are available
irrespective of geographic boundaries, and increasingly people
have access to participation in a formal economy, which is
governed by automated algorithmic systems communicating
interdependently with each other. Humanity has attempted to
solve coordination challenges in complex networks with systems
of hierarchy, including monarchies, corporations, militaries,
and representative democracies with layers of bureaucracy.
Yet, current economic and governance patterns are proving
inadequate (Duit and Galaz, 2008). Markets have been proposed
as a solution, but current market approaches are proving
inadequate, because markets tend to have limited or irregular
communication patterns that do not contain information about
all that is valued by society such as care work, environmental
beauty, leisure time, etc. (Doane, 2002).
Price communicates across complex supply chains
incredibly well, but the price of something is an oversimpliﬁed
communicator of value. For example, when the price of copper
goes up, the price of goods that use copper and the price of
services that make use of those goods tend to go up as well. At the
end of the line, a consumer can sense the diﬀerence between a
supply chain that makes use of copper and one that makes use of
a cheaper alternative because of the diﬀerence in sticker price at
the point of purchase; the process by which “the invisible hand”
functions (Hayek, 1945). However, other forms of information,
such as the working conditions under which the copper was
mined, or the environmental record of the mining company
do not get communicated across the supply chain with nearly
the same level of ﬁdelity. This imbalance in the composability
of price information vs. other forms of information leads to
larger-scale eﬀects that amount to a race to the bottom. The fact
that price is the dominant form of information traveling with
this level of eﬃcacy is a challenge for technological activists and
points toward potential technological solutions.
To overcome this problem, technological activists have asked,
is it possible to increase the adaptive capacity of value accounting
not just to single organizations but of markets more generally?
The conclusion that many have arrived at is that what is needed
is more rich and varied forms of information to be not only
communicable but also composable. Currently, the use of dollars
is the only value metric that is highly composable across contexts
(Krafel, 1999; Harris-Braun and Brock, 2018). Activists argue that
what is needed are other ways that individuals and communities
can communicate about value in ways that can be composed
across contexts because whether something is valuable depends
on the context.
There is a tension here with the recognition that value
judgments are always communicated within speciﬁc relationship
contexts. And yet, it can be useful to have that information be
composable beyond those speciﬁc contexts and can also end up
altering the dynamic of that initial relationship in the future.
For example, there is now pressure for restaurants to create
photogenic food that will make a nice picture on Instagram.
Matt Schutte, Holochain Director of Communications, argues,
“In order to thrive we need to create value accounting systems
that increase internal complexity.” He is part of a movement
of technologists using ideas drawn from the ﬁeld of cybernetics
to explore new technologically enabled protocol cooperativism
Organizational theory states that organized systems must
adapt to their environment to survive (Lawrence and Lorsch,
1967; Aldrich, 1979). Ashby’s (1961) Law of Requisite Variety,
presupposes that “for any system to be stable, the number
of states of its control mechanism must be greater than or
equal to the number of states in the system being controlled.”
Activists argue that we need new ways to coordinate in an
increasingly complex global system. Technological systems will
enable advanced forms of social cooperation that form the
principles of a new political economy, a global technological
commonwealth. Their socio-technical imaginary of the economy
is one in which the primary role of production is to meet
the needs of the community; the productive assets are held
in common under democratic control; people work because it
provides meaning in their lives, and; money is a mutual credit
system speciﬁc to the community’s needs.
PART 3. ACCOUNTING FOR VALUE AND
SELF-SOVEREIGN IDENTITY USING
DISTRIBUTED LEDGER TECHNOLOGY
This section explores the social movements of the global
technological commonwealth using new technologies
strategically to shift value accounting to move beyond capitalism
to a commons-based economic system that regenerates
both people and the planet. The commons can be managed
sustainably by local communities of peers when communities
communicate to build standard protocols and rules that
ensure their sustainability (Ostrom, 1990). Distributed ledger
technologies can be designed for the creation of self-sustaining
commons economies where all participants proﬁt according to
the value that they produce rather than trying to conform to
the capitalist economy. These are the cyber-physical commons
powered by blockchain networks, which are designed to align
user incentives toward maintaining the system. Miners earn
tokens, developers hold the tokens hoping their eﬀorts will raise
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
their value, and users purchase tokens creating demand and pay
Open shared ledgers are a key mutual coordination
mechanism to shift open-source coordination from software
to manufacturing. Blockchain and distributed ledgers generally
enable open and contributive ecosystem accounting (such as
practiced by SENSORICA (2019), REA (resource—event—
agent), which let us see ﬂows in shared circular economies
involving multiple players, and biocapacity accounting, which is
based on a direct vision of the ﬂows of matter and energy. These
types of contributory accounting systems promote fairness,
openness, transparency, security, and environmental limits. The
current state of the blockchain world is one of fragmentation,
but the tools are in development for the creation of interoperable
For example, members of the Giveth team are using
blockchain technology for good by building a toolkit for creating
these new community economies. The project is called the
Commons Stack and is a collaboration with BlockScience, a
Complex Systems Engineering R&D ﬁrm. The Commons Stack
is a project started in 2019 that aims to create community tools
to improve decentralized coordination around shared goals. In
these “community commons,” blockchain technology is used
to align economic incentives with each communities’s values
and scale these previously underfunded communal eﬀorts into
eﬀective networks for good. They believe the growth of the
commons will be accelerated through access to an open-source
library of modular, customizable, and interoperable components
enabling purpose-driven communities to unite around shared
goals (Figure 2).
(Figure 2. The Commons Stack is building a library of
tools for context-speciﬁc methods of governance, incentivization,
accountability, monitoring, and initialization using holistic
system simulations. Used with permission. Graphic by Jeﬀ
Emmet, published in “Commons Stack System Overview”).
The Commons Stack project has identiﬁed components for
what they term a “Minimum Viable Commons,” to provide
essential functionality in coordinating a group around raising
and allocating funds, making decisions, and measuring impact.
The ﬁrst component is the “Augmented Bonding Curve,”
providing continuous funding for a commons initiative through
community transvestment, with growing academic foundations
for this new economic tool. The second is a transparent
and accountable proposal service, which they call the “Giveth
Proposal Engine.” The third is a novel process for continuous
decision making modeled oﬀ the mechanics of a neuron ﬁring
in the brain, called “Conviction Voting.” And, ﬁnally, a means to
monitor and measure the value produced in these communities,
they term the “Commons Analytics Dashboard,” which they
see leading to a future of Computer Aided Governance.
The most important aspect of the Commons Stack is their
emphasis on Token Engineering, including the use of an
open-source sophisticated system modeling and simulation tool
The Commons Stack is using the emerging discipline of token
engineering to design technological improvements to streamline
community fundraising and decision making, lowering the
barriers for groups with shared goals to operate as distributed
protocol cooperatives. They are doing this by producing design
patterns for community toolkits, a library of code speciﬁcations
and reference implementations. These designs will be chain-
agnostic and can be applied to data-centric and/or agent-
centric architectures (see Appendix 2). However, most developer
interest so far exists in the Ethereum ecosystem, so that is likely
where they will see their designs ﬁrst implemented.
The Commons Stack could be the technological evolution
needed to enable the growth of the commons by enabling
crypto-economic systems of cooperation and governance. This
modular “cultural and technical stack for the commons,”
could help communities reach shared goals by giving them
the tools to bootstrap necessary funding (often the main
hindrance to launching), and empowering that community with
proportionally weighted peer governance, real-time preference
signaling, and monitoring systems that respect complexity. By
creating a growing library of open source component blueprints
for governance, funding, and other critical infrastructure, the
Commons Stack enables communities to act as eﬀective platform
cooperatives, co-owning and co-managing shared funds as
a commons. These components can be combined to create
intentional, circular, community-driven economies powered by
continuous funding streams and transparent decision making,
which will enable the threefold coordination of the post-
“In materializing, objectifying, and displaying the value of acts,
the publicity and formality of ritual approximate the way the
market objectiﬁes the value of work but making the consequences
impossible to commoditize. One might even say that ritual de-
commoditizes value.” (Lambek, 2013, p. 154).
In the quote above, Lambek discusses how humans have
used ritual to deﬁne community value. Ritual returns a
sense of the sacred to human activity, while commodiﬁcation
alienates humans from their labor. Technological activists
argue to move to a cooperative, post-capitalist planet; then
on the societal level, we must decommodify human energies
by treating our productive activity as sacred and ethical.
Macpherson (1973) argued that human activity is moral when
our internal and external motivations for performing acts
are in alignment, “Man is not a bundle of appetites seeking
satisfaction but a bundle of conscious energies seeking to
be exerted” (p. 4–5). To the greatest extent possible, value
must be incommensurable; meaning value must remain unique
How could we even begin this process? Technologies have
material agency, deﬁned as the structured set of relations enabling
or constraining diﬀerent sets of possibilities. On a global scale,
technological activists are designing new technologies with the
agency to open new pathways and foreclose others via the
operation of technology’s “material agency.”
Distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), such as blockchains,
are contributing to a wave of infrastructure distribution in
industrial production. Such distribution is made possible because
people place their trust in the software to accurately validate the
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
FIGURE 2 | A future stack for the commons (used with permission. Graphic by Jeff Emmet, published in “Architecting the Cyber-Physical Commons”, https://
medium.com/commonsstack/architecting-the- cyber-physical-commons- a294d88b5415).
transaction rather than trusting a bank or other intermediary.
Some DLTs are being designed to be “unencloseable,” meaning
that no party can capture and control the communication
occurring on the ledger. This is being done so that these DLTs
are non-commodiﬁable in traditional capitalist markets, and in
theory, they will enable more democratic forms of governance
and organizational structures. Yet these radical possibilities will
not be realized without strategic action to design systems that
alter value in ﬁnancial, service, and national infrastructures.
Blockchain is an emergent technology created to enable the
transfer of value with increased transparency, eﬃciency, and
security (Nakamoto, 2008) that possesses a transformative
material agency (Manski, 2017). The aﬀordances of blockchain
technology are directly available in its code, and seven such
tendencies are listed in Table 1.
(Used with permission. The data from this Table 1 are
from: “No Gods No Masters No Coders? The Future of
Sovereignty in a Blockchain World,” by Manski, Sarah Grace,
and Manski and Manski (2018),Law and Critique, 29:2,
The material agency of distributed ledger technology could
enable “the construction of self-sovereign identity.” The word
sovereignty refers to “the receiving of a general recognition of
exclusive domain and consequent possession of the capacity
to establish the rules of conduct within a particular ﬁeld of
action” (Manski and Manski, 2018). We all have both oﬄine and
online identities. For anyone who uses digital systems, tied to
our material identity are various digital identities. For the most
part, these digital identities are not under our control, and often,
TABLE 1 | Seven tendencies of blockchain technology.
1. Veriﬁability. Transactions are assured through encrypted network
consensus mechanisms in such a form that all transactions from the
very ﬁrst to the most recent are recorded in a ledger open to its
maintainers, reducing information asymmetries.
2. Globality. Digital transactions and cultural information ﬂows
transcend geographic space and national borders.
3. Liquidity. Value liquidity is enhanced as the location of a store of
value that does not depend on or is not under the direct control of a
sovereign, central bank, or private corporation.
4. Permanence. The ledger of a transaction is immutable by design.
5. Ethereality. Transactions are conducted in a digital medium.
6. Decentralization. The ledger is widely distributed among many
stakeholders and maintainers.
7. Future Focus. Found in newer developments of blockchain such as
Ethereum, a stored autonomous self-reinforcing agency (SASRA) is
formed in the temporal displacement of action through the use of smart
contracts enabling the preﬁgurative recording of future transactions.
Used with permission. Published in Manski and Manski (2018).
we are not able to see what information is contained within
each system. Problematically, if the information is incorrect,
we cannot correct these errors, nor do we control what and
with whom information is shared and sold. The self-sovereign
infrastructure allows users to set boundaries regarding who has
access to their data and maintain their privacy. It can also reward
users for being contributors. This infrastructure thus will enable
people to protect their autonomy while conducting joint work
and collective action.
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
TABLE 2 | Socio-economic objects within capitalist value accounting compared
to commons value accounting.
Commons value accounting
Human labor Commodity value Reﬂects the species being
Time Continuous made
Experienced via natural body
Institutions Embodiments of class
Reﬂects individuals’ perceptions
Transactions Restricted to narrow
Incorporates a broad range of
Capital dominates labor Labor dominates capital
Our “‘technical’ technologies will not generate broad human
gains unless we invest an equal amount of time, energy,
and resources in the development of social and emotional
technologies that drive how our whole society is organized and
how we work together.” Kaliya Identity Woman (2017) is making
the argument any technology controlled by corporations and
governments will always restrict human progress. Manski and
Manski (2018) support this point by outlining ﬁve possible future
scenarios of blockchain technology and conclude technology
without direct social movement intervention always reinforces
existing power relations. They take a contrasting position to those
who believe individual self-sovereign identity is the most likely
outcome of the use of new technology,
“In blockchain’s tendencies toward veriﬁability, globality,
permanence, and future focus, state actors are ﬁnding greater
capacities to intervene globally in the daily lives of individuals.
These expanded capacities are making possible the emergence
of new technological totalitarian forms of state sovereignty. To
begin with, states cannot easily control what they cannot measure,
and a blockchain-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) ampliﬁed by
artiﬁcial intelligence furthers the degree with which states can
monitor the material and social world. The rapidly expanding
IoT is expected to more than triple in size by 2020 to nearly 21
billion devices (Stavridis and Weinstein, 2016). When there is a
tiny blockchain-connected chip embedded in each material object
with which we interact, state institutions will assuredly seek to
monitor and discipline the personal, political, and economic
activities of the many.” (Manski and Manski, 2018).
PART 4. FUTURE OF VALUE
ACCOUNTING: METACURRENCY, DEEP
WEALTH, HOLOCHAIN AND PERSONAS
Holochain is a clear case of a new technology strategically
created by social movement activists to achieve regenerative value
accounting, which they call “holoptical” knowledge accounting.
On New Year’s Eve of 2016, Eric Harris-Braun and Arthur
Brock started to build Holochain, “For me, what we need to
create is a very rich multidimensional accounting. We need
lots of feedback loops beyond the single dimension of price.”
(Brock, 2017). Holochain was created by the founders of the
MetaCurrency Project to realize a part of their socio-technical
imaginary. Holochain is the foundation for Holo, a cloud hosting
market for dApps, and the future of the Internet.
“Holo as a name was not pulled from a hat. It has roots.
Back in the original collective intelligence of tribal communities,
we had holopticism where everyone participates as part of a
feedback loop of the whole. Holomidal instead of pyramidal,
where, together, we sensed the whole. This isn’t just voting or even
decision-making, this is about an embodied integral experience
of sensing together. In the original collective intelligence, there is
co-creation and connectedness, even in a changing environment.
We need less democratic debate in this form because holoptical
clarity shapes individual actions. Holopticism doesn’t mean you
see everything; you see the whole from your perspective. And
it, then, collectively becomes aperspectival by our sensing and
communicating together.” (Russell, 2018)
Holochain is a DLT platform-based ecosystem with aﬀordances
fostering co-production, open content, and co-ownership.
Holochain, aims at facilitating interconnectivity among direct
and indirect participants, such as those who install Holochain on
their hardware devices to provide hosting space and those who
access Holochain through a web browser. One of the advantages
of this design is that it avoids the blockchain requirement for
global consensus among maintainers and thus aﬀords greater
scalability, as well as ’self-sovereignty;’ the user controls their
data and identity information. The design of holochain is
extremely distributed for a DLT2. Holochain activists call this
design ’agent-centric’ as opposed to corporate ’data-centric’
models. The aﬀordances of this design mean that users are given
sovereign control over their data and are solely responsible for
Holochain does not have a built-in currency or token.
However, the distributed internet architecture Holo does use
a cryptocurrency HOT Fuel and Holochain was designed to
make it easy to bid alternative cryptocurrencies in the form of
distributed accounting applications (dApps). Holo Fuel, a mutual
credit system (Manski and Bauwens, 2020), will cover the costs
for data storage and Holochain development and maintenance.
Holo Fuel is not a crypto-token or cryptocoin, but a mutual credit
system issued within a double accounting system where one party
holds a debit (the provider of goods and services) and the other
party holds a credit (a debt to the provider of goods and services).
On Holochain every transaction is countersigned on the local
chains of both counterparties. Holo Fuel will be purchased as a
token or received as a credit. This process occurs either through
the exchange of ﬁat currency or another cryptocurrency into
Holo Fuel or by setting credit limits; Holo Fuel to be paid later.
The exchange of money and cryptocurrencies into Holo Fuel
and the allocation of credit limits are done through the “Reserve
Accounts,” which is a facility provided by Harris-Braun and Brock
2For a comparison between Blockchain and Holochain, see Appendix 1.
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
“MetaCurrency is the name for the infrastructure and protocols
necessary for an open source economy, and free currencies to
ﬂow in an interoperable and standardized way” (Harris-Braun,
2018). The open source economy and free currencies are meant to
function in a non-monopolizable manner by building protocols
and platforms to ‘open source’ the next economy (Brock, 2009),
“Building the core infrastructure for open sourcing money and
currencies and developing projects that embody the values of
Deep Wealth design.” (Harris-Braun et al., 2018).
The concept of Deep Wealth (see Figure 3) shifts the
value accounting incentive from accumulating material
wealth to experiencing wealth through elements such
as beautiful surroundings, friendship, capacity of being
generous, leisure, travel, family and fun and perhaps, most
importantly, deep connections with others (Brock, 2009).
In the view of Metacurrency, there are three forms of
wealth. The ﬁrst is tradable wealth: food, time, energy,
services, material resources, etc. The second is measurable
wealth: performance, sustainability, physiological health,
quality, etc. and the third is acknowledgeable wealth: fun,
love, care, trust, beauty, etc. Each of these three forms of
wealth is a subset of the other. For example, time is tradable
wealth as well as measurable and acknowledgeable wealth;
together, they create “integral wealth” (The MetaCurrency
Technological activists involved with Metacurrency and
Holochain refer to a “quantum leap” transition from a complex
capitalist political economy to a post-capitalist society where
information technology plays a signiﬁcant role in fostering
the creation of large-scale collective intelligence. The design
of Metacurrency’s technologies model the same organizational
patterns as living systems. By “living systems,” these activists
refer to biological organisms, atoms, forests, languages and
other continuously transforming systems, “the same kind of
architectures of intelligence that makes it possible for trillions
of cells to work together in an organism.” (Harris-Braun
and Brock, 2018). Within this architecture, “communication
is virtually instantaneous (electronic), peered, decentralized,
semantic and designed to evolve in response to rapidly changing
needs” (Harris-Braun et al., 2018). Such communication
parameters lead to eﬀective, large scale, distributed collaboration
that would remove “most of the power structures that
underpin the social barriers to change and could make
formerly intractable problems (such as climate change, species
extinction, resource depletion, or poverty) quite readily solvable.”
(Harris-Braun et al., 2018).
Blockchains are token-centric, and by this, I mean that they
are concerned with the history of token transactions and not
necessarily with the people at the end of each transaction. In
contrast, the creators of Holochain designed Personas as an
agent-centric solution that allows individual users to maintain a
reputation. This reputation will document their behavior within a
community and across multiple applications that need a person’s
proﬁle information. In this way, users will be able to trust those
with whom they are transacting. Personas allow the user to store
and edit their information in one account, similar to “log-in
with Google3” and oﬀer/revoke any applications’ access to it4In
addition, to control your data, Personas is designed to allow users
to create multiple identities within each account so that users can
have a diﬀerent business, personal, government, medical, family,
and friend personas. Each persona can also have an expiration
date. It allows for the revocability of data as required by European
The deﬁnition of value has been changing for the past
few decades, from market value to community value, and
distributed ledger technologies are furthering this transformation
by pushing out centralized identities in favor of self-sovereign
identities. The widespread adoption of self-sovereign identity
applications, such as Holochain-based Personas, is still yet
to be realized, but the incredible interest in user-controlled
identity makes it likely that some DLT application will
make this a reality. Distributed ledgers are a critical piece
of the puzzle of technologies including, smartphones, cloud
computing, public key infrastructure (PKI), open standards for
decentralized identiﬁers, directed identiﬁers, and open standards
for veriﬁed claims (DIDs) ﬁtting together to enable self-
This article seeks to begin a dialogue on the topic of
how distributed ledger technologies may transform our
understanding of value and identity. Valuation is a social process,
and distributed organizations of technological activists are
utilizing new technologies to disrupt accounting and identity
management in contemporary capitalism, and thus transforming
global economics, the nature of work, and the distribution of
wealth. This paper explores the radical generative accounting
practices and ideological imaginaries underpinning this new
form of social movement activism, and whether or not the
development of new technologies of value accounting and self-
sovereign identity may address the challenges of an increasingly
complex global political economy of the future.
There is not a straight line between technological innovation
and the increasing complexity of the political economy. As
a society, we can decide to create technologies that will
enrich humanity rather than commodify it. However, it is
a certainty that if we continue to live on a planet where
capitalism is the dominant determinant of value accounting and
social identity, then expanding complexity and distorted value
accounting will usher humanity to the edge of the collapse of
Self-Sovereign Identity is a necessary but insuﬃcient tool to
deal with some aspects of growing complexity. Only a widespread
popular global movement will have the power to snuﬀ out the
underlying drivers of capitalism. As a part of this process, we
can use new forms of value accounting to reinforce and reify the
social system under which we imagine we want to live. There
is a growing movement of social entrepreneurs, cooperatives,
3Test out Personas’ demo here: https://bit.ly/2SfhKIT.
4See how PayPall sells your data here: https://rebecca-ricks.com/paypal-data/.
5the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679.
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
FIGURE 3 | Deep Wealth (used with permission. Graphic by Arthur Brock, published at https://metacurrency.org/portfolio-item/living-systems- model-of- wealth/).
and technological activists who are using these technologies
in pursuit of cooperative ownership and management of
wealth. It is in everyone’s interest to pay attention to
The author conﬁrms being the sole contributor of this work and
has approved it for publication.
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Conﬂict of Interest: The author declares that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or ﬁnancial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conﬂict of interest.
Copyright © 2020 Manski. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms
of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or
reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the
copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal
is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or
reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
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Manski Creation of Critical Accounting Technology
Blockchain versus Holochain (image used with permission. Created by
Agent Centric and Mutual Sovereignty Holochain
•Anybody can try a new grammar (tweets, likes, rideshare
requests, ﬁve-star ratings, etc.) without needing permission or
support from others.
•Anyone that wants to communicate with them using that new
grammar, can do so.
•If it proves useful, they can keep using it without requiring
a business model that can extract value from the participants
(they are using it due to intrinsic value).
•If it starts to prove too costly, annoying, or simply useless,
they can alter in any way they see ﬁt or abandon that
•This enables far greater responsiveness by the participants in a
community to the circumstances they face.
•Make it diﬃcult for both corporations and states (powerful
actors) from foreclosing possibilities.
•There are ecologically inspired patterns of organization that
simply aren’t possible with existing tools (http, dollars,
incorporation, etc.). New tools like Holochain can enable
coordination that is not dependent on access to or control over
existing power structures (corporations, governments, etc.).
•It does not free people of the control that powerful entities
might seek to wield. But it enables them to coordinate
independently if they choose to.
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