Bitcoin use study: A plain language explanation for participants

You are invited to participate in a research project being conducted through RMIT University. The project title is: An ethnographic study of the use of Bitcoin


  • Professor Supriya Singh, Professor, Sociology of Communications, RMIT.
  • Professor Heather Horst, University of Sydney.
  • Dr Greg Adamson, Global Chair, IEEE, Society for Social Implications of Technology, and University of Melbourne.
  • Dr Alexia Maddox, Research Assistant, RMIT  University and Deakin University.

Contact Alexia by email to find out more about the study: a dot maddox [at] deakin dot edu dot au

Who is involved in this research project? Why is it being conducted?

We are researchers primarily based at RMIT and are conducting an ethnographic study of Bitcoin use to understand how its social adoption reveals changing perspectives towards money and the associated conditions of trust, security and privacy within economic exchange in a cross-cultural context.

This research is being conducted because there is currently limited understanding of the role of Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies more generally, as an alternative form of digital cash and its social adoption across diverse socio-cultural contexts.

The project has been approved by the RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee, Ethics number. BCHEAN 19717

Who would we like to talk with? (eligibility for the study)

By inviting you to participate, we anticipate that you have used Bitcoin and/or other cryptocurrencies to conduct online purchases or engaged in the technology through mining bitcoins. You may also have been actively engaged with the community surrounding the development and use of Bitcoins and are likely to support the agenda to promote the social adoption of Bitcoin and/or its associated technologies.

What is the project about? What are the questions being addressed?

This study is about gaining insight into the user experience and social practices surrounding Bitcoin in diverse social and cultural contexts. We also seek to understand the role of Bitcoin alongside people’s use of other currency forms, both digital and non-digital.

We will not be addressing questions about the illegal use of Bitcoin

For this study, we anticipate interviewing up to 50 people directly on their experiences of using Bitcoin and conducting participant observation over the course of 2017 at events and online forums where Bitcoin use is the primary focus. (the primary time period where we will be active is May 2017 to the end of July 2017

If I agree to participate, what will I be required to do?

The interview may take up to 30 minutes or longer depending on your availability and on what you have to say. It will be audio-recorded if you consent.

We will not be asking you about illegal uses of Bitcoin. We recommend that you do not share information about illegal activities with the researcher.

During the interview you will be asked about your experiences of using Bitcoin, starting with the question of what you use it for and why. We are also interested in your use of Bitcoin in relation to other types of money, both digital and non-digital. Throughout the discussion we’ll focus on your perspectives about the use of Bitcoin and where you see its advantages and limitations with regards to trust, privacy and security.

What are the possible risks or disadvantages?

We will be interviewing in a manner that will ensure there are no risks or disadvantages. We will only be asking about the use of Bitcoin for legal activities. You will not have to reveal discomforting facts or answer questions that you feel are uncomfortable.

What are the benefits associated with participation?

Your experience will contribute to the development of public awareness and knowledge surrounding the uses and applications of Bitcoin specifically, and cryptocurrencies more generally.

To symbolically acknowledge your contribution, we will transfer $2(AUD) worth of Bitcoin to your wallet upon completion of the interview.

What will happen to the information I provide?

The information you provide will remain confidential. We will use a pseudonym to refer to you. Identifying details will be masked. Any potentially identifying information that you provide, such as place or event names, will not be reported in these publications.

The information you provide will be kept in a secure environment for five years after publication before being destroyed. The privacy of the information you provide will be safeguarded through encryption practices and researcher confidentiality.

Any information that you provide can be disclosed only if (1) it is to protect you or others from harm, (2) if specifically required or allowed by law, or (3) you provide the researchers with written permission.

The results of the research will be collated and analysed in reports, journal articles and conference presentations, with a public archive of these becoming available through RMIT. We can also provide it to you at your request.

What are my rights as a participant?

  • The right to withdraw from participation at any time
  • The right to request that any recording cease
  • The right to have any unprocessed data withdrawn and destroyed, provided it can be reliably identified, and provided that so doing does not increase the risk for the participant.
  • The right to be de-identified in any photographs intended for public publication, before the point of publication
  • The right to have any questions answered at any time.

Whom should I contact if I have any questions?

If you are concerned about your responses to any of the interview questions or if you find participation in the project distressing, you should contact Professor Supriya Singh as soon as convenient. Supriya will discuss your concerns with you confidentially and suggest appropriate follow-up, if necessary.

You can download this plain language statement and the consent forms here [pls-and-consent_bitcoin-study]

Thank you for your interest!