Self Help

New Money - Lana Swartz

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 51 min read
  • Money is a fundamental part of everyday life and allows people to communicate value. The payment system that enables money to be exchanged is a massive global industry.

  • How people pay for things says a lot about their identity and relationships. The technologies used to make payments, like credit cards or Venmo, shape and reflect culture and society.

  • The payment industry is undergoing major changes as Silicon Valley companies try to disrupt it. These companies see payments as an opportunity for big data and have utopian visions of changing the world by changing money. They are turning money into a form of social media.

  • This book looks at how payment technologies and the communities they create determine who has access to spaces, options, and ways of imagining themselves. The communities and identities formed around payments can include or exclude people and be matters of life or death.

  • There are many types of payments people make each day, from using cash or credit cards to smartphone payments like Venmo or Starbucks’ app. These payments connect people but also reveal inequalities.

  • While the payment system is crucial infrastructure, most people don’t understand how it actually works. But as new startups try to disrupt payments, money seems newly open to reinterpretation. Changing how people pay could have major consequences.

  • Money is a form of communication that communicates value and meaning. It is dependent on technologies and infrastructures that also communicate symbols and messages.

  • The study of money has largely overlooked its communicative dimensions. This book aims to examine money through the lens of communication and media studies, focusing specifically on payment technologies.

  • The author defines communication as a symbolic process through which we construct and share realities. Communication theorist James Carey made a distinction between the “transmission” view of communication as information transfer and the “ritual” view of communication as the creation and confirmation of shared meanings and beliefs. The author takes the ritual view.

  • State currencies, like other media, convey symbolic messages through their design and imagery. They offer an opportunity for propaganda and shape how people understand nationhood and identity. People have at times pressured governments to tell new stories through currency design.

  • The campaign to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is an example. The Trump administration halted those plans, with Trump arguing that Andrew Jackson should remain because of his “tremendous success for the country.” The artist Dano Wall created stamps to superimpose Tubman’s image over Jackson’s as a form of “subversive” representation.

  • There are precedents for remixing paper money to spread messages, like English suffragettes stamping “Votes for Women” on pennies.

The key arguments are that money, specifically payment technologies and currencies, should be understood as communicative media that are used to construct and share meanings in society. Their design and control are therefore political issues involving questions of representation and access.

  • Currency and other monetary media are not just used to transmit economic value but also to communicate social meaning and create shared realities.
  • People have found ways to “remediate” currency by adding stamps, stickers or other embellishments to alter its meaning and tell new stories. For example, activists have stamped Harriet Tubman’s image on $20 bills or added stickers of an opposition political candidate to rupiah notes in Indonesia.
  • The meaning of money is fluid and people create “special monies” or use “mental accounting” to allocate money for different social purposes. Currency’s meaning is “routinely differentiated.”
  • Communication technologies like money involve both “tokens” (the units of currency) as well as “rails” (the infrastructures enabling circulation) and “ledgers” (the accounting systems tracking them). We must consider not just the symbolic aspects of money but the “stuff of transmission.”
  • Infrastructures, like money, shape experience and either enable or constrain us. They have a “ritual capacity.” Low bridges built into infrastructures can effectively prevent some groups from accessing resources, as with Robert Moses building low bridges preventing buses and thus poor people from easily accessing Long Island suburbs.
  • Money is a “processual thing” that acts in the world. It has a materiality that persists even with digitization, involving wire, ether, servers, spectrum, and more.
  • The people who build and maintain infrastructures like payment systems are also part of its ritual capacity. They make the systems that “kind of work most of the time.”
  • A communication perspective can help understand how both meaning and power work through mediation and infrastructure. Communication is not just about shared realities but also division and hierarchy. It is inflected with power, privileging some groups over others.

The key ideas in the passage are:

  1. Carey’s ritual view of communication that emphasizes community and communion is problematic because it tends to exclude differences and homogenize experience. It demands affirmation and agreement, obscuring power dynamics.

  2. thinkers like John Durham Peters and Sybille Krämer offer an alternative “transmission” view of communication that sees mediation and technology like money as enabling communication despite differences. Money is a medium that resolves conflicts and allows exchange across differences.

  3. Money and relationships are often seen as either hostile to each other or reducible to each other. But Viviana Zelizer offers a “differentiated ties” approach that sees money as a tool for negotiating diverse relationships, contexts, and selves. Money can be used to create or end relationships, manage intimacy, or establish hierarchy.

  4. Transactional communication through money creates “transactional communities” - sets of relations produced by transactions and characterized by shared meanings and social relations. These communities are more inclusive than states. They are networks, circuits, or spheres.

  5. Transactional communities share senses of identity, geography, time, value, politics, and practice. Money performs relations between people in a transaction and between people and larger systems like the economy. Money works through network effects and shared belief. Exchanging money affirms the community.

  6. We may be shifting from an era of “mass money media” to “social money media,” parallel to shifts from mass media to social media. But this dichotomy is problematic. Reality is messier, and word-of-mouth and interpersonal communication have always been important.

The key argument is that approaching communication and community through a ritual lens that emphasizes unity and communion is misguided and exclusionary. Instead, we should understand communication and community as emerging from transactions and the mediation of differences. Money is a key example of a transactional medium that enables the formation of “transactional communities” built on shared practices and meanings.

  • Mass media refers to one-to-many communication technologies like broadcast radio, television, and newspapers. Social media refers to many-to-many interactive digital platforms.

  • State-issued currency, like paper money and coins, operates as a form of mass media. It is a standardized, universal medium of exchange. New fintech platforms, like Venmo, aim to disrupt this model by creating social, networked forms of payment.

  • Venmo was designed to look and feel like a social media platform. It has a public feed, friend connections, likes, and comments. People use Venmo to create social messages and interact with others’ payment traces. Venmo is often described as a social network in the popular press.

  • However, the distinction between mass media and social media, like that between mass money and social money, is not straightforward. Cash and cards continue to exist alongside new payment options like Venmo. Venmo payments are still denominated in dollars. The shift is uneven and incomplete.

  • In general, the payments industry is being reshaped by the logics of social media and tech companies. But state currency and other “mass” forms of money persist. The result is a kind of monetary media cacophony, with different forms of money used for different purposes.

The key argument is that we should not understand new payment platforms as simply disrupting or replacing older forms of money. Rather, we have a heterogeneous and hybrid media environment for money, with new social platforms and apps added to preexisting mass media forms of currency. Payment is becoming social media, but it also remains mass media.

  • Money as a technology has long tracked with other communication technologies like print, telegraph, computers, and mobile phones.

  • Paper money emerged in the 19th century and enabled the rise of nation-states. Like print media, paper money spread shared stories and histories to citizens. It bound communities together economically and imaginatively.

  • Before national currencies, money was fragmented with many kinds of notes and coins circulating. Navigating this required “street smarts.” National currencies made commerce easier between strangers.

  • Early on, money was stratified, with the rich using bills of exchange and the poor using petty tokens. National currencies unified these tiers into a shared “economic language.”

  • National currencies had to move across large territories, like the nascent US. Communication and transportation were once synonymous. The postal system enabled the movement of money and fostered a national imaginary.

  • New payment technologies like the telegraph, laying undersea cables, and modern computing enabled faster movement of money over long distances. This sped up commerce but also financial crises.

  • Payment systems build transactional communities and power relations. They determine who can transact and how. New systems don’t necessarily mean more freedom. They can enable new constraints and types of control.

  • We’re now shifting to social money media from mass money media. This also means a shift to social transactional communities. We have to understand how new payment forms create new communities, identities, relations, and power dynamics. The stakes here are high.

  • In sum, the history of money is one of social change enabled by new technologies, not just technological progress. Money is a social technology, and new forms don’t replace old ones but build upon them in complex ways.

  • In the early 20th century, most people did not have checking accounts and mailed cash payments. The US mail service was important infrastructure for communicating value. Private shipping companies like Wells Fargo and American Express also transported payments, competing with the US Postal Service. There was tension between providing universal service versus discriminatory service for profit.

  • The telegraph revolutionized long-distance communication by transmitting information electronically. However, it was not widely used for payments. Instead, paper instruments like money orders, traveler’s checks, and bank checks enabled “telegraphic” movement of value without physically moving money. These built on existing postal infrastructure.

  • The US Post Office issued money orders starting in the Civil War so Union soldiers could send money home. They functioned like state-issued currency for some. American Express issued money orders starting in 1882, especially used by immigrants to send money abroad. American Express later issued traveler’s checks, marketed to elites, which could be cashed internationally. Fees and “float” (unredeemed funds) became key to their business model.

  • The Federal Reserve, established in 1913, provided infrastructure for clearing checks between banks. Before this, checks had to travel long distances between correspondent banks to be cleared, often at a discount. The Fed’s check clearinghouses enabled par clearance (cashing at full value) nationally.

  • In summary, while new technologies like the telegraph enabled long-distance communication, paper payment instruments and postal/financial infrastructure were crucial for developing a national system to communicate financial value. Private companies and the government both played important roles in building this infrastructure.

  • In the early 20th century, rural Americans often had to pay fees to cash checks far from banks, indicating a stratified payment system based on geography.

  • In 1915, the Federal Reserve created a national check clearing system, eliminating the need for discounted checks. This allowed for instantaneous check clearing across distances and paved the way for a public payment infrastructure.

  • In the mid-20th century, mobility began outpacing the ability to move money, as interstate travel and credit became more common. Diners Club created the first charge card system to address this.

  • Banks began offering credit cards in the 1960s and 70s but needed a way to enable use across regions. Visa created an open-loop payment network that treated money as information to be transmitted. This viewed transactions as communications and enabled a nationwide payment infrastructure.

  • The rise of e-commerce and the internet in the 1990s created a demand for digital peer-to-peer payments. PayPal emerged to meet this need, using the existing ACH to draw money between accounts, enabling commerce at the scale of communication.

  • Although new systems have emerged, most still rely on the infrastructure built by the Federal Reserve, Diners Club, Visa, and PayPal to enable a public payment system and convert money into transmittable information. This has allowed for a stratified system based more on the ability to access information networks than on geography.

In summary, 20th century payment systems developed to increase access to a public payment infrastructure by converting physical money into digital information that can be instantly transmitted across distances, enabling greater mobility and access. Nevertheless, stratification has continued based on the ability to access these information networks.

  • In 2016, Chase launched the Sapphire Reserve credit card, marketed as a “luxury” card with high annual fees but lavish benefits. The card launch generated intense buzz and demand, with many people eager to showcase their new cards on YouTube and social media.

  • Financial institutions have long been concerned with shaping customers’ “financial identities.” In the 19th century, credit bureaus gathered personal information about people’s character and compiled records of their debts and payment histories. Today, credit reports and scores measure a “data double” - a distorted representation of one’s financial identity.

  • The Sapphire Reserve confers an “interesting” identity, but not simply due to applicants’ wealth or excellent credit. Applicants need good but not exceptional credit to qualify. The card is accessible to many, but appeals especially to those attuned to maximizing credit card rewards and perks. Cardholders are disciplined consumers of credit and debt.

  • The Sapphire Reserve’s popularity has led to overcrowding of airport lounges and other spaces, prompting backlash from more “elite” travelers. But the card confers status through its lavish benefits and ability to signal an “interesting” lifestyle, not through representing extreme wealth or exclusivity.

  • In sum, the Sapphire Reserve phenomenon shows how financial institutions shape identities and classifications of status, and how consumers eagerly adopt and promote these new identities. The card represents the democratization of a kind of “luxury” status that is more about signaling an ideal lifestyle than true exclusivity or wealth.

• The Chase Sapphire Reserve card conveys a particular lifestyle and identity. It suggests the cardholder leads an interesting life that involves frequent travel, dining out, and other benefits the card provides. The card produces and signifies this lifestyle and identity.

• The identity the card signifies is one of financial literacy and privilege. Cardholders are portrayed as savvy consumers who know how to maximize rewards. The card is a symbol of access and status.

• However, the identity and lifestyle the card signifies are only visible and meaningful to those in a similar economic position. To others, the card is just another way to pay, even if it highlights differences in status.

• All payment methods signify identity and lifestyle. They provide insight into who we are by indicating our relationship to institutions, access to money, and participation in transactional communities. Cash, cards, and other payments convey clues about identity, values, and socioeconomic status.

• Payment technologies connect people through shared economic worlds and identities but also enforce boundaries of membership. They unite people with common payment methods, geographies, and senses of value.

• The identities and communities produced by payments are relational, not just individual. They link individuals to the institutions that authorize their economic lives. Payment methods are interfaces between our institutional and lived identities.

• The payment card industry designs niche products to attract specific consumers, creating new transactional identities and communities in the process. Though most cards look the same, they signify different lifestyles and forms of privilege.

• In summary, how we pay is deeply meaningful. It signifies who we are, gives insight into our relationship with money and institutions, connects us to like others, and separates us from those unlike us. Payment has profound implications for identity, community, and status.

  • While credit and debit cards may look similar on the surface, they are quite different in terms of their infrastructure, economics, and functions.

  • Card networks like Visa and Mastercard connect merchants, banks, and cardholders. They operate on an “open-loop” model that requires merchants to accept all cards in their network.

  • The open-loop model allows for differentiation between cards and customization of the payment experience for each cardholder. The network configures itself differently for each card used in a transaction.

  • Card issuers make money primarily through two means: interest charged to cardholders who carry balances (“revolvers”) and interchange fees charged to merchants. Interchange fees are set by the card networks and are higher for premium rewards cards.

  • Merchants pay interchange fees to their acquirers, who then pay the fees to the card networks, who then distribute them to the issuers. Merchants build these fees into the prices they charge consumers.

  • Interchange fees are controversial. Merchants argue they represent price fixing. Card networks and issuers argue they enable competition and innovation. Studies suggest interchange fees may negatively impact some consumers and merchants.

  • The interchange system challenges traditional capitalist market logic. Competition among issuers for affluent customers drives up costs for merchants, acquirers, and potentially all consumers.

  • Payment infrastructure marks us and enacts inequality. How we pay determines who profits from the transaction. Cash treats all payers equally, while cards enable differentiation and hierarchy.

  • Payment cards that can be used at multiple merchants and are managed by third-party companies, known as interchange networks, are a relatively recent innovation. They create differentiated “transactional communities” in which some people’s transactions cost more for merchants to accept.

  • Early payment cards included Charga-Plates, issued in the 1930s, and Diners Club, launched in the 1950s. Diners Club was the first universal third-party payment card and functioned like an elite club. It charged merchants fees to be part of its network in order to access wealthy customers.

  • American Express overtook Diners Club as the elite payment card. Like Diners Club, American Express was a closed-loop charge card that did not extend credit. Its marketing positioned carrying an American Express card as a membership in an exclusive club with many privileges.

  • In the late 1960s, bank-issued credit cards like BankAmericard (later Visa) emerged to offer credit cards to a wider population. Unlike charge cards, credit cards extended revolving lines of credit to customers.

  • Interchange networks create a market where some people’s transactions cost more for merchants to accept than others. The higher fees merchants pay to accept elite cards are a “tribute” acknowledging the rank and privilege of elite cardmembers. For cardmembers, the rewards and benefits they receive are a payment for their business.

  • Everyday transactions are made strange in this system, as merchants pay more to receive the business of certain privileged customers, who are in turn rewarded for their transactions. Transactional communities are hierarchical, with the most elite cards conveying the highest rank and privilege.

The key points are that payment cards and interchange networks produce differentiated transactional communities, the fees and rewards in the system represent a “tribute” acknowledging hierarchy, and this makes everyday transactions strange. The history of how these networks developed, from Charga-Plates to modern premium rewards cards, shows how transactional privilege and hierarchy were built into the system from early on.

• Bank of America introduced the first bank-issued credit card in 1958 called BankAmericard. It eventually became the Visa network. Unlike Diners Club and American Express, bank credit cards were easy to obtain and targeted a mass market.

• Bank credit cards moved to an “open loop” system that allowed people to use cards issued by one bank to make purchases from merchants that used a different bank. This was key to enabling credit cards at scale. Diners Club and American Express used “closed loop” systems limited to their members.

• Bank credit cards were marketed as a convenient way to pay for everyday expenses, not a symbol of status. They expanded the types of places that accepted credit cards.

• In the 1970s and 1980s, banks began issuing credit cards nationally and targeted different market segments. More people had credit cards, and charge cards declined.

• In the 1990s, big banks fiercely competed for customers by offering more benefits and perks. They targeted revolvers and transactors. Airlines partnered with banks to offer miles programs. Banks offered “affinity cards” tied to organizations. Credit cards expressed identity and status.

• After the financial crisis, regulations restricted some bank practices but did not apply to business cards. Banks aggressively market business cards to small businesses with perks. But some business cards have predatory terms due to lack of regulation.

• Today there are many types of credit cards for different identities and transaction types. Perks that were once “ultrapremium” are now common. But business cards often have harsh terms, especially for small businesses with bad credit.

• The key trends are: expansion from an elite product to mass market; differentiation for identities and transaction types; benefits and perks to attract customers; and lack of protection or predatory practices for some small business cards. Overall, credit cards enable a variety of transactional identities, for better and for worse.

  • New forms of precarious work are emerging, in which people envision themselves as independent businesses rather than employees. This kind of work is exemplified by the “gig economy,” in which people take on temporary jobs and freelance work. A 2016 study found that 94% of new jobs created between 2005 to 2015 were these kinds of alternative work arrangements.

  • This precarity is managed in part through business credit cards, which provide credit to smooth over income volatility but also make people vulnerable to debt. These cards signify a “transactional identity” as a business rather than a consumer.

  • In the 1990s, new types of payment cards emerged, like debit cards, prepaid cards, and secured credit cards. They worked everywhere that accepted major card networks like Visa and Mastercard, but invoked different transactional identities and business models.

  • Debit cards compete with checks, not credit cards. They generate lower interchange fees for issuers. They were marketed as helping consumers avoid debt. But they offer lower fraud protection than credit cards.

  • Prepaid cards allow issuers to profit from customers who don’t use credit or debit cards by charging many small fees, like transaction fees, monthly fees, reload fees, and balance inquiry fees. The fees can seem predatory but are actually more predictable for some consumers than overdraft fees from banks. Prepaid cards market themselves as alternatives to traditional banking that give consumers more control over their money.

  • The rise of these alternative payment methods shows how the major card networks have incorporated more people into a system of card payments, even those outside the traditional banking system, while maintaining distinctions between different kinds of cardholders.

• Prepaid cards are designed to function like debit cards and checking accounts by allowing direct deposit and bill payments. They allow people without traditional bank accounts to participate in electronic commerce and pay bills online.

• Prepaid cards are heavily marketed to specific audiences, like African Americans, Latinos, and older white men. The cards are branded to appeal to these audiences. For example, Russell Simmons and Magic Johnson have endorsed prepaid cards targeted at African Americans. Univision and Major League Baseball offer prepaid cards targeted at Latinos. NASCAR offers a prepaid card for its fans.

• The prepaid card market has grown rapidly and is very lucrative. General purpose reloadable prepaid card use grew from under $1 billion in 2003 to nearly $65 billion in 2012. It is projected to reach $116 billion by 2020.

• Prepaid cards allow people to access funds and pay bills but do not help build credit since the spending and repayment are not reported to credit bureaus. Some critics argue secured credit cards are better because they do help build credit. However, prepaid cards have some advantages, like avoiding debt and fees. They also provide faster access to funds, as with the Uber-Green Dot partnership.

• Prepaid card use is often portrayed as demonstrating a lack of financial literacy, especially among African Americans. However, some analysts argue prepaid cards give users more control and help them avoid predatory lending practices. Prepaid cards fit the financial practices of various groups.

• Some advocates recommend postal banking, in which post offices provide financial services, as an alternative to prepaid cards and traditional banks. Postal banking operates in many countries but not the U.S.

France: A country in Western Europe, capital and largest city is Paris. Known for its art, cuisine, and culture. Italy: A country in Southern Europe, capital and largest city is Rome. Known for its art, architecture, music, food, fashion, luxury sports cars, and wine. Japan: An island country in East Asia, capital and largest city is Tokyo. Known for its traditional arts, modern cities, and natural beauty. Brazil: A country in South America, capital is Brasília and largest city is São Paulo. Known for its beaches, rainforests, culture, and soccer. India: A country in South Asia, capital and largest city is New Delhi. Known for its temples, festivals, cuisine, and Bollywood films.

In the early 20th century, the United States operated a postal banking system that offered savings accounts and loans. At its peak, it held $3.4 billion in deposits. Some proposals today aim to revive postal banking to provide affordable banking services.

Payment cards are ubiquitous today and configure people into different transactional identities with different levels of privilege and access. The payments industry segments the population and enables both communication across groups and maintenance of hierarchies. The type of payment methods people use says a lot about their socioeconomic status.

Eden Alexander, an adult performer, faced discrimination from WePay, a payments processor, when trying to raise money for medical expenses. WePay froze her crowdfunding campaign, claiming a violation of terms of service due to Alexander’s profession and her retweets of supporters offering adult materials in exchange for donations. Supporters argued this was an example of whorephobia and unfair surveillance of Alexander’s social media. WePay claimed it does not take a moral stance against sex workers but needs to follow its processors’ rules. The case highlighted issues of discrimination in the payments industry and lack of transparency in enforcement of terms of service.

• Eden Alexander, an adult film performer, set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for medical expenses. The campaign was shut down by WePay, the payment processor, due to violations of their terms of service.

• The controversy highlighted how vulnerable individuals and organizations are to being cut off from the systems that allow them to get paid. Not being able to get paid can have dire consequences.

• Two examples that illustrate the power dynamics of not getting paid:

  1. Operation Choke Point: A US government initiative that aimed to combat fraud by constraining merchants’ ability to get paid. It was controversial, with critics arguing it was being used for political purposes. Supporters said it targeted criminal activity. Either way, it showed how controlling access to payment systems is a potent form of power.

  2. WikiLeaks: In 2010, WikiLeaks had its accounts frozen by major payment processors in response to pressure from the US government. This cut off 95% of WikiLeaks’ donations and funding. It showed how denying access to payment systems can be an effective form of censorship.

• In today’s digital economy, control of the infrastructures that move information, goods, and money has become a major source of power. Not being able to get paid can choke off individuals, families, and organizations.

• Being able to get paid reliably is fundamental to participating fully in communities, economies, and even day-to-day survival. Unexpected interruptions to payment access can be as damaging as not having access at all. Payment is a form of communication, and money is information that is socially guaranteed to have value.

• Getting paid often goes unnoticed or is backgrounded in our financial lives. But when the systems that allow us to get paid break down, the consequences can be severe. The payment industry plays an important role in keeping businesses and people paid and connected.

  • Acquiring refers to the process by which merchants are able to accept payments from customers in exchange for goods and services. It involves many parties and layers of fees.

  • Merchants pay acquirers fees for accepting card payments, processing information, and providing point-of-sale equipment. Acquirers then pay interchange fees to card issuers. Card networks set the rules and facilitate the exchange of information between acquirers and issuers.

  • Large merchants usually work directly with large acquirers like Chase or Wells Fargo. Small merchants typically use independent sales organizations (ISOs) as middlemen to gain access to acquirer services. ISOs buy acquiring services in bulk and resell them to merchants. They provide services to merchants like customer service, data processing, software, and point-of-sale terminals.

  • In a card transaction, the acquirer fronts the money to the merchant, then bills the card issuer to recover the funds. The acquirer also holds the risk if there is a chargeback, having to refund the issuer and then recover the funds from the merchant. Acquirers price their services based on a merchant’s risk of chargebacks. Riskier merchants pay higher fees.

  • Acquirers must comply with know-your-customer regulations, verifying merchants’ identities and ensuring they are not engaged in illegal activity. Failure to comply can result in heavy fines. The list of “high-risk” merchant categories comes from regulations around risk management and compliance.

  • Chargebacks demonstrate how payments manage risk. They allow people to transact as strangers, with the temporality of the exchange—you get paid in cash, and the transaction is over. Chargebacks reintroduce risk and relationship, allowing the recovery of funds after a transaction is complete.

  • Traditionally, merchants accessed the payment card networks through independent sales organizations (ISOs) that helped them set up merchant services accounts and negotiated fees on their behalf. This was a market-based model where risk was priced.

  • In the 1990s, PayPal emerged as an online payment service provider (PSP) that enabled person-to-person payments by bypassing the traditional acquiring system. PayPal kept money in its own closed system as long as possible through “book transfers” between users. It charged lower fees by using the automated clearinghouse (ACH) network and negotiating lower interchange fees as an “aggregator.”

  • PSPs are often embedded in online platforms and represent the interests of the platform, not the parties in each transaction. They displace traditional ISOs and are disrupting their business model.

  • PSPs manage risk through terms of service that ban “high-risk” transactions, rather than pricing risk in a market. They use machine learning and social media monitoring to enforce terms of service. This “flattens” the relationship between payment services and their users.

  • Some merchants, like those in “occult” or “high-risk” industries, continue to use traditional ISOs to access payment networks since PSP terms of service often prohibit their businesses. But for many small merchants, PSPs embedded in platforms are replacing the ISO model.

  • In sum, there has been a shift from a market-based model of risk management to a platform model governed by terms of service. This represents a shift in the “riskwork” of the payments industry with political implications.

The key contrast is between the traditional ISO model where risk is priced in a market, and platform payment systems where risk is governed through terms of service that ban certain transactions and uses automated enforcement. The platform model is overtaking the ISO model, but some high-risk merchants still rely on the ISO model to gain access to payment networks.

  • Payment service providers (PSPs) like WePay ban “high-risk” industries like pornography from their platforms due to the higher risk of chargebacks. This effectively cuts off individuals in those industries from participating in online economic activity.

  • Eden Alexander, a pornographic performer, lost access to funds from a crowdfunding campaign for medical expenses after tweeting an offer of free porn to donors. This was because WePay monitors users’ social media activity and detected the tweet as indicating the campaign involved the “high-risk” porn industry.

  • WePay uses an AI called Veda to analyze users’ social data and determine their “risk.” Although WePay claimed Veda reduced fraud risk, in practice it mainly detected violations of WePay’s terms of service. By citing Veda, WePay was able to get lower transaction fees from its payments processor.

  • The traditional payments industry concept of “high risk” was meant for differential pricing, not exclusion. But PSPs have adopted “high risk” as a way to ban entire categories of transactions and people. This represents a misalignment between the old risk model and new payment infrastructure.

  • The suspension of Alexander’s campaign shows how social media “context collapse,” where domains of life collide unexpectedly online, can have dire consequences when one’s ability to participate in the economy is at stake. Alexander agreed to be monitored by WePay, but that monitoring unfairly conflated her work life and personal life.

  • Porn performers are treated as “high-risk people,” not just engaged in “high-risk transactions.” They face barriers to getting paid both as individuals and for their work. The payments system replicates imbalances of power that favor middlemen in the sex industry.

  • Although meant to replace cash, PSPs lack the flexibility and anonymity of cash. Their policies on who can receive payment are political, as they determine who can participate in the economy. But PSPs were created for business, not person-to-person, transactions.

That covers the main points on how payment policies and infrastructure can exclude and disadvantage certain groups, using the case of Eden Alexander and the pornography industry. Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Payment processing platforms like Vantiv and WePay make substantial profits by serving a range of merchants, including some considered “high risk.” However, their risk management policies are often opaque, experimental, and inconsistently enforced.

  • WePay flagged Eden Alexander’s crowdfunding campaign as too high risk, likely due to the terms of its contract with Vantiv, its payment processor. WePay’s decision reflects how payment systems classify individuals and assess risk in ways that can severely limit people’s access to economic infrastructure.

  • There has been a shift in the payments industry toward probabilistic modeling and monitoring of risk. But this has not necessarily led to fewer account freezes or a less opaque process. In fact, the experimental nature of machine learning systems means that platforms often do not have a clear rationale for why some transactions or accounts are flagged. Users have limited insight into how they can avoid issues.

  • Variable risk management is difficult for platform payment companies that prioritize growth and scale. As a result, some individuals and transactions are banned entirely. This is particularly clear in the case of the adult entertainment industry, which struggles to access mainstream payment platforms.

  • Terms of service are inconsistently and confusingly enforced across platforms. WePay banned Alexander’s campaign but allowed other campaigns that seemed to violate its terms. Its partnership with GoFundMe to host a campaign to support Darren Wilson also appeared to violate WePay’s terms against exploiting criminal activities. There are likely complex reasons for these decisions, but they remain opaque to users.

  • In summary, anyone relying on electronic payments is subject to risk management systems that are experimentally and inconsistently enforced, opaque, and offer little opportunity to contest decisions. This framework—powered by surveillance, terms of service, and control of infrastructure—may increasingly shape how we are all paid.

Here’s a summary:

• Crowdfunding campaigns and online payments can be complicated by racist and hateful comments from supporters, even if the organizers do not promote or endorse such views. It can be difficult for platforms to determine when a campaign has crossed the line into promoting hate.

• Payment service providers like PayPal, WePay, and GoFundMe have vague and inconsistently enforced terms of service about prohibited content and behavior. Users who violate the terms of service, even inadvertently, can face account closures and loss of funds with little recourse.

• The lines around what constitutes “adult” content are also blurry and inconsistently enforced. Many payment providers prohibit “sexually oriented materials or services,” but it’s not always clear what qualifies. Sex workers and those associated with the adult industry report a lot of difficulty using mainstream payment systems.

• Public pressure and media attention seem to be the most effective way for users to push back against unjustified account closures and restrictions. But not all users have the platform to rally support.

• Access to digital payment systems that operate at the speed and scale of the internet has become an expectation for many. But some individuals and groups, like sex workers, face unreliable or inappropriate options for getting paid online. For them, the digital economy is largely inaccessible.

• Payment technologies have historically kept pace with communication technologies, enabling new types of transactions within the communities they connect. But some communities remain disconnected from modern payment systems, unable to keep up with the ordinary digital transactions of peers.

That covers the key highlights and main takeaways from the summary. Please let me know if you would like me to explain or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Venmo is a popular person-to-person payment app that allows people to pay friends directly for shared expenses.
  • Venmo includes a social feed that makes these payments visible to friends, turning mundane financial transactions into a form of social media.
  • Venmo provides a window into people’s financial lives and memories. Looking through someone’s Venmo feed reveals details about their relationships, breakups, dates, and daily activities.
  • Venmo has been criticized for bringing money into friendships and fueling FOMO. However, many people find Venmo fun and enjoy using it to connect with friends or express different social dynamics.
  • Person-to-person payment apps and social media are converging. Venmo shows how adding social features to payments can increase popularity. Major social media companies have started offering payment services. Payments are likely to become increasingly embedded in social media.

The key ideas are:

  1. Venmo turns payments into social media by making them visible and shareable.

  2. Venmo provides insight into people’s personal lives, relationships, and memories by sharing their financial transactions.

  3. While Venmo has been criticized, many people enjoy its social aspects and ability to facilitate connections.

  4. Payments and social media are converging, as evidenced by social companies offering payments and payments companies adding social features.

An important part of our digital lives are the apps and platforms that facilitate our communication and transactions. WeChat, a popular Chinese app, demonstrates how these platforms are becoming all-encompassing, allowing users to do everything from chatting with friends to paying for meals, all within the same app.

The rise of these comprehensive platforms shows how payment is becoming an essential feature of social media and communication. To become truly social, payment systems must emulate the logics of social media, like configuring social relationships and capturing personal information. Both social media and money are technologies of memory that assemble our past and present experiences.

Scholars argue that money itself functions as a form of memory. Money represents a shared system of credit and promises of value, allowing us to keep track of exchanges across space and time. Although physical cash lacks an explicit record of its own movement, its circulation maps the flow of human interactions and relationships. Newer payment technologies are designed to create more permanent records of these transactions and accounts.

People often try to physically capture the memory of money through practices like “earmarking” special bills, tracking money through websites like, or graffitiing cash. Some argue that these practices show a desire for money that remembers more and is more accountable. Blockchain is envisioned as a solution to create a distributed ledger that perfectly and permanently records all transactions.

Even when there are no overt attempts to track money, it still leaves traces in the form of receipts, account books, and digital records. The forms that these traces take have political implications. The emergence of double-entry bookkeeping and state accounting, for instance, were tied to conceptions of factuality and accountability. Venmo’s public transaction feeds continue this longer history of making financial records more visible and social.

In summary, money and communication technologies are both systems of memory that shape how we construct and share our personal and collective pasts. There is a desire for these technologies to remember more, even as their records take on political meanings and configure relationships between individuals and communities.

  • Checks were a popular non-cash payment method in the mid-20th century. They required individuals to maintain their own transaction records and balance them with bank statements. This compelled a kind of personal accounting and memory work.

  • Charge cards lifted the burden of record-keeping from individuals. They provided itemized monthly statements, outsourcing memory work as a service for elite customers. The records charge cards provided also allowed for monitoring and accountability, such as for business expenses or personal spending.

  • Credit cards allowed people to carry balances, like a line of credit. They were marketed as both a record-keeping device and a way to spend impulsively like cash. Judicious use of credit cards for record-keeping was seen as virtuous, while relying on them as a loan was seen as irresponsible.

  • Debit cards combined the form of payment cards with the direct access to funds of checks. They eliminated delays in clearing checks but also disrupted existing practices like writing checks before funds were available. Debit cards made personal accounting instantaneous and gave individuals less flexibility or control over the timing of their payments.

  • In general, there has been a shift from individuals maintaining their own records and reconciling them with banks to relying on statements and records provided by payment card networks and other financial service providers. At the same time, these records have enabled new forms of monitoring, accountability, and control. Personal memory work has been outsourced but also subjected to institutional logics.

The key themes are: how records create systems of memory and accountability; who controls access to and maintains these records; and how they structure relations of power and responsibility. New payment technologies have shaped all of these dynamics.

  • Debit cards and electronic payments led to a shift in how people track their personal finances. Instead of manually recording each transaction in a checkbook, people came to rely on banks to maintain an authoritative record of their account balances and transactions.

  • The payments industry generates a massive amount of transactional data. Different parties—cardholders, merchants, processors, issuers—have access to different parts of the transaction record, but no one has a complete view. Card issuers can see account information and where and how much people spend, but not what they buy. Merchants see what people buy, but little else about them.

  • Historically, this transactional data was used primarily for operational purposes, like risk assessment. But with the rise of social media, Silicon Valley saw an opportunity to exploit transactional data for commercial gain. The goal of many new payment systems is to gain access to people’s transactional data and link it to other data streams.

  • The “wallet wars”—competition to release a successful mobile payment system—are largely about gaining control of people’s transactional data. The winner will be in the best position to profit from people’s transactional records, not just the fees from each transaction.

  • Payment apps apply the logic of social media to transactional records. Like social media, they see people’s data as a resource to exploit. They also envision transactional records as something to aggregate, analyze, and sell to other parties, just as social media platforms sell data to advertisers.

  • In sum, as new payment systems mediate transactions, they are producing persistent records of people’s financial lives. These new ledgers of transactional memory are a data resource that various companies aim to control and monetize. The memory function of payment is being shaped by the data imperatives of social media and Silicon Valley.

  • Payment systems like Google Pay and Apple Pay create records of our transactions that provide insight into our transactional memories and daily lives. These records were once thought of as purely personal data, but they have become a form of social data that companies seek to monetize.

  • Google has tried to launch various mobile payment products since 2011, hoping to use the data collected to power targeted advertising, which provides most of Google’s revenue. Google sees transaction records as a way to direct marketing and shape how people move through the real world. However, Google has struggled to gain traction with consumers and has faced pushback from others in the tech industry.

  • Unlike Google, Apple frames Apple Pay as a way to protect users’ privacy and security. Apple claims it does not collect or store any transaction information tied to individual users. Apple Pay allows people to track and quantify their transactional behavior but keeps that data private, in contrast with how other companies seek to monetize personal data.

  • New payment systems like these turn our transactional memories into data that can be analyzed, enclosed, and privatized. They represent a new way of recording and viewing our everyday financial lives that is offered up to companies for commercial purposes, even if users experience these systems as empowering or convenient.

  • We should consider the political economy of how these “payment memory factories” operate and what is at stake in how they handle our transactional data. These systems make promises of security and empowerment but also threaten privacy and enclose our social interactions as transactional data.

Does this summary accurately reflect the key ideas and arguments presented in the original response? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand the summary in any way.

  • Apple Pay allows iPhone users to make payments using credit and debit cards stored on their iPhones. To enable this, Apple partnered with major credit card issuers like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup.

  • The issuers likely pay Apple a share of the interchange fees they charge to merchants. This allows Apple to access the existing payments infrastructure without having to build their own. The issuers also benefit from Apple’s security features like tokenization.

  • Merchants are often willing to accept the higher fees charged by premium cards like Apple Pay because it signals that they cater to affluent customers. iPhones and Apple Pay are seen as status symbols of the wealthy.

  • In 2019, Apple launched the Apple Card, a credit card with no fees. Though issued with Goldman Sachs, Apple marketed it as “created by Apple, not a bank.” It is integrated into the iPhone and highlights features like privacy and transparency.

  • Venmo is a peer-to-peer payments app popular with younger users. Although Venmo does not charge fees, it was acquired for $26 million in 2012 and $800 million in 2013, showing its potential value.

  • Venmo’s value comes from transforming social norms around money between friends and the data generated from those transactions. Venmo transactions are public by default, though many users make them private. Even so, Venmo likely has access to users’ transaction data.

  • The public nature of Venmo has led to concerns over privacy and “oversharing.” However, it also provides value as a form of social advertising and allows brands to tap into “real friends, real talk.”

  • Venmo’s data could be valuable for companies like Palantir that specialize in predictive analytics. Palantir was spun out of PayPal, which now owns Venmo, and has government security and intelligence agency clients.

  • Palantir Technologies is a private company that provides data integration and analysis services. It works with government agencies like the military, intelligence agencies, police departments as well as private companies in various sectors. In 2014, Palantir partnered with First Data, a credit card processor, to develop Insightics, a platform that infers demographic and behavioral information about customers from merchants’ payment records.

  • Venmo is a mobile payment service owned by PayPal that allows users to send and request money from friends. Venmo transactions are often public by default, allowing friends and sometimes strangers to see details about someone’s purchases and payments. The artist Hang Do Thi Duc downloaded over 200 million public Venmo transactions from 2017 to create profiles of five unsuspecting Venmo users to show how much personal information can be gleaned from public Venmo data. She argues that Venmo users should change their privacy settings.

  • In 2018, Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz said that digital currencies issued by companies could be the next major technological transformation after the internet. He argued that Starbucks was well positioned to issue its own digital currency because of its global reach, existing digital payment infrastructure, and strong brand trust among customers.

  • The 2008 global financial crisis led to a loss of faith in traditional government-issued currencies and a rise in alternative digital currencies like Bitcoin as well as local community currencies. Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that is produced and transmitted through a peer-to-peer network. Between 2010 to 2014, Bitcoin captured public interest as a mysterious new form of digital money.

  • The summary outlines how private companies are gaining access to detailed personal financial data through digital payment platforms and services. It also describes how alternative digital currencies emerged after the 2008 financial crisis as people sought alternatives to government money, with Bitcoin being the most well-known example. The examples of Venmo and Starbucks show how companies could use financial data and digital currencies to build new kinds of transactional communities.

• Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were created to serve as a decentralized digital currency, free of government control. While Bitcoin was designed to function like digital cash, in practice it is primarily used as a speculative digital commodity or “digital gold.”

• The rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis coincided with a spike of interest in alternative currencies, including local currencies, time banks, and LETS. These were formed to overcome problems related to value, identity, space, time, and politics.

• Creating a new currency is easy; the hard part is getting people to accept and use it. Nation-states have historically had the power and infrastructure to establish and maintain the value of currencies. As interest in alternative currencies grows, it raises questions about what kinds of institutions have the capacity to create and sustain new forms of money.

• Loyalty programs like Starbucks Rewards are stealthily becoming a popular form of private digital currency. Three-quarters of households belong to at least one loyalty program, and the average household belongs to eighteen programs. Loyalty programs may soon provide “real competition” to government-issued currencies.

• While Bitcoin has ignited imaginations about the potential of digital currency, more people actually use loyalty programs. Loyalty programs derive power from the ability of large corporations to scale them unilaterally. Although less glamorous than Bitcoin, loyalty programs could become a mainstream form of digital currency.

• In the future, there may be a plurality of currencies circulating together, including government currencies, cryptocurrencies, local currencies, and corporate loyalty programs. Government currencies are unlikely to disappear but may have to compete with these other options.

That covers the key highlights and arguments around the rise of alternative and digital currencies, the challenges of establishing new forms of money, the potential of loyalty programs to become a major form of digital currency, and a possible future of currency plurality and competition. Please let me know if you would like me to elaborate on any part of this summary.

• Loyalty programs and branded currencies are not new. Early examples include S&H Green Stamps in the 1930s and airline frequent flyer programs in the 1980s. These programs have since evolved into sophisticated rewards and loyalty systems.

• Loyalty points and rewards are increasingly described as a kind of “currency.” They derive value from trust in the brand and community, similar to government-issued money and cryptocurrencies.

• If companies issue their own digital currencies, it would constitute a major shift. Traditionally, only governments have had the authority to issue currency. But some economists and legal scholars argue that private entities like companies can also make money.

• How money is designed and issued has major consequences. Government-issued money aims to distribute resources democratically, while private money may have other goals. The type of money in circulation shapes the broader community and economy.

• We may be moving into an era where private and non-state monies become more common. Many people distrust government institutions and are exploring alternative currencies, whether cryptocurrencies, local currencies, or corporate loyalty programs. These visions represent a shift away from state-based democracy.

• Plural and private forms of money were more common historically. Before the 19th century, people used a mix of government-issued coins, privately issued banknotes, ledger keeping, and non-cash methods of exchange. A “tiered monetary order” gave different groups access to different kinds of money.

• If companies like Starbucks issued their own digital currency, it could constitute a shift to private money and new kinds of brand communities and transactional publics. However, government-issued currency is so dominant that it is hard to envision alternative systems gaining widespread adoption.

That covers the key highlights and arguments around the possibility of companies issuing their own digital currencies and what that might mean for communities and transactional publics. Please let me know if you would like me to explain or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Prior to the 19th century, a variety of non-standardized forms of money circulated, including food stamps, coupons, and counterfeit currency. National currencies were a demonstration of state sovereignty that took significant effort to establish.

  • New communication technologies like the Internet are suited to perform the functions of money, like transferring value and keeping records. In the 1970s, Dee Hock imagined that money would become simply information managed by new technologies, possibly enabling new global currencies.

  • In the 1990s, “cypherpunks” and “cryptoanarchists” envisioned digital cash as a way to enable privacy, free speech, and anarcho-capitalism. Projects like David Chaum’s “e-cash,” Wei Dai’s “b-money,” and Nick Szabo’s “bit gold” aimed to create decentralized digital currencies. Though none succeeded, they influenced later cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

  • Historically, monetary plurality was common, so the future may see a return to more varied and localized currencies. Thomas Pettitt’s “Gutenberg parenthesis” theory suggests modern mass media was an aberration, and we are returning to more ephemeral and relational forms of media and social organization, like in the Middle Ages. Keith Hart predicts more “specialized currencies” and fragmentation resembling feudalism.

  • Bitcoin promoters compare it to the early Internet, seen as a blank slate for building a better society free of regulation. Early technologists saw the Internet as a frontier to shape, envisioning peer-to-peer exchange and new communities. But today’s Internet is dominated by centralized platforms like Facebook that concentrate control and power. Bitcoin aims to recreate the lost potential of the early Internet.

  • In sum, new technologies are inspiring new forms of money that aim to remedy the failures of modern currencies and recreate the lost promise of the early Internet. But technology alone cannot guarantee a currency’s value or success. And technology itself requires maintenance and governance. The future may see a multiplicity of currencies, but they will depend on social adoption and maintenance, not just technological promise.

  • Loyalty programs like frequent flyer miles and truck stop rewards function as private currencies that create transactional communities with their own economic norms and hierarchies.

  • These private currencies are constrained in their flow and value. They can only be used for certain purposes, at certain places, and their value is subject to changes by the issuing company. This makes the communities that use them vulnerable.

  • Loyalty programs produce status and hierarchy. They designate certain users as higher status through tiers like gold and platinum. This status is always relational—it only exists within the community. It also often relies on and reproduces existing social hierarchies like class.

  • Loyalty programs function as a kind of private governance. They lock users in through rewards and status, even when service declines. The communities they form are not democratic but are run as corporate oligarchies.

  • This model of private currencies and transactional communities divided by values and culture rather than geography resembles Neal Stephenson’s vision of “phyles” in his novel The Diamond Age. Some see this as a model for a future with decentralized currency and governance.

  • Overall, while alternative currencies like Bitcoin aim to free us from state control of money, loyalty programs show how private corporations may come to govern transactional communities and exert control over people through private currencies. They threaten to displace the public sphere of state currency with constrained, hierarchical private monies.

The key argument is that private loyalty programs, rather than liberating us, threaten democratic governance and reproduce existing hierarchies and restraints on freedom. They point to a potentially worrisome future of private oligarchic control mediated through currencies and transactional communities.

  • Loyalty programs are a increasingly popular way for companies to collect data about their customers and shape their behavior. While loyalty points seem harmless, they actually represent a type of “transactional identity” that is monitored and controlled.

  • Loyalty programs turn customers into highly surveilled subjects, like “Hervé André-Jezek,” whose personal details and purchasing habits become intimately known to companies. This data is shared widely with other companies and used to customize marketing and shape behavior.

  • Unlike government currency, loyalty points have no fixed value, are unreliable, and are subject to arbitrary changes by companies. Consumers have little recourse when companies make unwanted changes to loyalty programs, though some push back on social media.

  • While rewards programs are regulated to some extent, companies actively work to limit their legal liability. Rewards represent a contract between companies and consumers but companies maintain ownership and control.

  • However, loyalty programs also provide pleasures to consumers, like feelings of status, recognition, and belonging. Some consumers also enjoy “beating the house” by maximizing points.

  • Loyalty programs have become deeply embedded in the economy and culture. Though supposedly voluntary, they are shaping new types of transactional identities and communities that exist within national ones.

  • Ultimately, the rise of private loyalty programs and currencies points to a potential “stratification” of payments and transactional communities that exist alongside and cut across national identities.

That covers the key highlights and main takeaways from the passage on loyalty programs and transactional identities. Please let me know if you would like me to explain or expand on any part of the summary.

  • Loyalty programs have become ubiquitous as companies seek to build customer loyalty and gain data about spending habits.

  • Regulators are starting to consider oversight of loyalty programs due to their increasing popularity and influence over consumer choice. However, little progress has been made in regulating them.

  • Loyalty programs tend to follow two main models: place-based programs that tie rewards to local communities or merchants, and universal programs that aim to make points interoperable and widely accepted.

  • Place-based loyalty programs, like Bernal Bucks, are designed to promote local spending and community. However, they may not benefit merchants who have to pay higher fees and accept rewards as currency.

  • Universal loyalty programs, like those offered by Amazon and Mastercard, aim to make points exchangeable and relevant to everyday purchases across sectors. However, coalition programs that join many brands have had mixed success.

  • Some loyalty programs are invoking cryptocurrencies and blockchain to appear innovative, even though established companies likely do not need those technologies to operate digital payments. They act more as a “convening technology” to attract interest and investment.

  • Facebook’s proposed digital currency Libra represents the ambition to create a universal global currency. Unlike private transactional communities or cryptocurrencies, Libra aims to span national currencies and unite all users under one system.

  • Libra embraces intermediaries and corporate control, unlike the decentralized vision of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Libra can be seen as representing “Silicon Valley feudalism,” with power concentrated among large companies in the Libra Association.

  • Libra felt audacious yet inevitable when announced. Private monies may depend most on consumer trust, though Facebook seems an unlikely candidate to issue a currency. But the effectiveness of money depends more on its adoption and circulation than the issuer.

  • Transactional communities are groups of people who engage in economic exchange within a shared system of payment. They are created and sustained by the forms of money they use.

  • In China, WeChat has become an “everything app” that allows people to do almost everything within its platform, including making payments. WeChat Pay allows Chinese tourists to vacation in places like Las Vegas without ever handling U.S. currency or leaving China’s transactional community. WeChat is expanding globally, allowing Chinese transactional communities to exist transnationally.

  • Social media money like Venmo creates private, branded experiences of economic communication for users. For American students studying abroad, Venmo allows them to remain largely within the transactional community of their friends back home, with money moving between U.S. bank accounts. This can make it hard to include new local friends in their economic exchanges.

  • Transactional communities are varied and constantly shifting. Some are highly hierarchical and segmented while others aim to be universal. Most require trusting corporations with our money and data. Their plurality and segmentation mean people can be living in very different transactional worlds.

  • The shape of tomorrow’s transactional media and communities is still emerging. Many rely on social media and leverage data and surveillance. They raise issues of how much control and accountability we have over our ability to pay and be paid.

The key ideas are that 1) transactional communities are created by the forms of money we use; 2) social media money and platforms like WeChat are enabling new kinds of transactional communities that are transnational yet rooted in nation-states; and 3) these new communities raise important questions about data, privacy, and control that we must grapple with.

The communication of money involves exchanges between different types of money, communities, and contexts. Money acts as a medium for communication, not just a means of exchange. The way we design, represent, and interact with money carries social meaning and shapes communities.

Different types of money, like national currencies, communicate national identities and bind communities together. New payment technologies also create new ways for people to communicate and form communities. Social media platforms incorporate new payment features, like Venmo, that provide insight into people’s social relationships and transactions.

However, these new transactional communities enabled by payment technologies are not unitary or fixed. People’s transactional identities are complex, intersecting many types of money and communities. The meanings and communities that money communicates depends on the context. As money becomes more digitized and globalized, it enables new types of plural, shifting transactional communities and identities.

In summary, money communicates in complex ways through its material and digital designs, social uses, and role in binding and intersecting communities. As new payment technologies emerge, money enables new modes of communication and new types of transactional communities. But transactional identities and communities are multivariate, depending on the type of money and context. Money communicates at the intersections of different monies, communities, and contexts.

Author Photo

About Matheus Puppe