Abstract

Blockchain technology has been claimed to have the potential to disrupt a large number of industries. Despite all the hype around it, blockchain remains at a nascent state. In the early stage of the development of an IT innovation, its success is to a degree contingent on building legitimacy around it. This seems to be particularly relevant in the context of blockchain due to the questionable reputation that its most famous application, the bitcoin, has gained over time. This paper explores the usage of social media by four key actors in the blockchain ecosystem –media, IT, financial services and consulting firms – over a calendar year and through the lens of ‘organizing visions’ to identify how these organizations are trying to legitimize blockchain. Our results show that these actors employ three primary legitimation micro-level strategies through two types of legitimation mechanisms – advertising affiliations with influential field level actors (pragmatic legitimacy), describing positive market responses to blockchain and emphasizing its ongoing development (cognitive legitimacy), and describing characteristics of blockchain that are in alignment with current technological best practices (cognitive legitimacy). This paper extends the current literature on IT innovation adoption and legitimation, and contributes to the nascent literature on blockchain.

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