Crypto as a semiotic sign and a master signifier

What is a sign in semiotics?

A linguistic sign1 is not a link between a thing and a name, but between a concept [signified] and a sound pattern [signifier]. This link is arbitrary — anything can be signified by any word.

As the figure above illustrates, the sign “Crypto” represents a number of concepts prevalent in the Zeitgeist.

What is a master signifier?

The meaning of a sign is intrinsically not in that sign itself, but in its relationship to other signs. There are privileged signifiers, that function to “button down” meaning. These regulate and limit the meaning of other terms2, and also involve “ideological ideas” of how society is or should be structured.

The ‘magic’ of the master signifier in the ideological field is that it is able to knit together different constituencies, appealing equally, albeit in very different ways, to a variety of classes who are otherwise opposed in their political agendas.

The real magic of crypto lies not in the blockchain, but in the way it can link everyone from libertarians, to finance bros and those ostensibly on the left, under a tech utopian vision of freedom, progress and prosperity.



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