Coin Fomania: What Makes Blockchain so Hard to Communicate?

One of the first concepts I teach undergraduates when I lecture on media and communication is what is known as Diffusions of Innovation theory. According to this theory, five sections of the public display different levels of willingness to adopt new technologies.

Innovators and early adopters tend to gravitate towards change rapidly with quick and informed commitment. The late majority and laggards are slow, skeptical and conservative consumers who gradually wean themselves off old tech. The critical middle group, the early majority, are the ones who transform a marginal technological trend into mainstream adoption with careful deliberation.

When it comes to something like blockchain, which is now finishing a decade in the public consciousness, this early majority is still fairly invisible. What I contend is, for this early majority to consolidate, one of the primary hurdles that needs to be passed is not logistical or infrastructural, but communicative.

Blockchain’s most commonly heard definition, “a decentralized, distributed, immutable ledger,” creates an instant blur in the minds of most of the uninitiated when they hear it for the first time. It is as much of a definition as it is an abstraction. It is difficult to pinpoint it as a process, code or a function. By the time we introduce nodes, timestamping and cryptocurrencies, we have already filtered out much of the public interested to learn more beyond the buzzword.