Exploring trust on a hybrid cryptomarket: interactionistist approach

Andreas Zaunseder, Angus Bancroft, Irene Rafanell, Tim Squirrel

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This research project investigates how trust is formed, maintained, and managed in a hybrid cryptomarket that primarily functions as a discussion forum which also features embedded market exchanges and sharing of psychedelic drugs. It represents an interesting case where participants cannot rely on the technological features of the market, because there are few. Instead they need to build trust in a pseudonymous environment. We ask how that is done. We explore inter-empathy building and mutual sanctioning as key to knowledge production and group boundary setting. Emerging from these interactive dynamics is the particular conception and constitution of trust and trustworthiness as a group status marker essential for the emergence, maintenance and continuation of a hybrid cryptomarket necessarily operating in an anonymous fashion.

Empirical data has been gathered through an online ethnography. We analysed the data using integrated thematic analysis. We directly drew paraphrased interactions from the forum that exemplified the function of empathy and affective sanctioning in interactions amongst forum participants. Thirdly, we explored the symbolic markers of trust incorporated in and displayed on the profiles of the participants.

Within the group participants hold different recognised authority, one which is always subject to maintenance work. Individual’s authority and trust can be either conferred by the forum administrators or earned through contributions to the community when acknowledged as such (e.g. awards). As such these authorities signal and incorporate trustworthiness. Longstanding and accredited members of the group, including administrators, exert their authority to look after the
forum space, engage and intervene in forum interactions (e.g. sanctioning and commending). We argue that trust building and trustworthiness becomes an essentially relational characteristic in this context. Trust differs substantially as a symbolic marker of group belonging from how it is constituted and operates in a non-anonymised interactional environment. Specific forms of mutual affective sanctioning and inter-evaluative dynamics taking the form of empathy building are key to the building of trust. We find that the close-knit and communitarian characteristics of the group, instantiated through interactions, are significant factors in nurturing trust and overall security of what we term the ‘cryptospace’. Often cryptomarkets are assumed to be ‘trustless’ in the sense that technology removes the need for interpersonal trust. In our case we find that participants do not primarily rely on technology to build trust. This points to generally safer and more trustworthy market exchanges of psychedelic drugs when embedded such a hybrid cryptospace.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2018
EventEuropean Society for Social Drug Research 29th Annual Conference - ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 4 Oct 20186 Oct 2018


ConferenceEuropean Society for Social Drug Research 29th Annual Conference
Internet address


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