Decentralized Technology in Practice: An analysis of socio-technical resilience in IPFS

Nabben, K. "Decentralized Technology in Practice: Social and technical resilience in IPFS," 2022 IEEE 42nd International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems Workshops (ICDCSW), Bologna, Italy, 2022, pp. 66-72, doi:10.1109/ICDCSW56584.2022.00021.

7 Pages Posted: 24 May 2022 Last revised: 14 Feb 2023

See all articles by Kelsie Nabben

Kelsie Nabben

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS); RMIT University School of Media and Communication

Date Written: March 31, 2022

Abstract

The “Interplanetary File System” (IPFS) refers to a peer-to-peer content addressing protocol that is designed to be “upgradeable, resilient, and more open”. [1] In conjunction with “Filecoin”, a blockchain-based data storage marketplace, the aim of this technology is to offer people digital infrastructure that decentralized from central, corporate control, to store and manage their data. This paper investigates socio-technical resilience as adaptability and transformability under threat for participants in IPFS in practice as a peer-to-peer digital infrastructure. I find that developer conceptions of “resilience” in this system relate to adaptability of the network against isolation or split. Yet, resilience for those using IPFS relates to data integrity, in line with the preferences and local context of the provider of that data. I employ qualitative research methods to investigate why and how people use the network, and in what ways it meets the needs of their contexts and purposes, or in some cases, falls short. I find that while significant emphasis is placed on the technical resilience of this infrastructure, these tools remain logically fractured at the social coordination layer that guides processes of data ownership, governance, and storage, and this limits the resilience of the network to serve people’s needs in their local context. I then propose examples of institutional infrastructural frameworks that could provide participatory data governance patterns to help people collectively organize their use of decentralized digital infrastructure for greater resilience in IPFS and Filecoin. Finally, I outline further research directions to improve resilience in decentralized data storage infrastructure.

Keywords: decentralization, resilience, peer-to-peer, governance, data

JEL Classification: O30, O31, O35, Z1, Z10, Z13

Suggested Citation

Nabben, Kelsie, Decentralized Technology in Practice: An analysis of socio-technical resilience in IPFS (March 31, 2022). Nabben, K. "Decentralized Technology in Practice: Social and technical resilience in IPFS," 2022 IEEE 42nd International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems Workshops (ICDCSW), Bologna, Italy, 2022, pp. 66-72, doi:10.1109/ICDCSW56584.2022.00021. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4082016 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4082016

Kelsie Nabben (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

RMIT University School of Media and Communication ( email )

Melbourne
Australia

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