Scott Mainwaring, Intel and Camellia George, California College of the Arts
The People and Practices Research group at Intel has been exploring how technology could foster new kinds of experiences and understandings of money that people would find compelling and valuable, in a future of dynamic heterogeneity. Our fieldwork targeted sites of cutting-edge monetary innovation from Nairobi (where money can be SMSed between mobile phones, bypassing the banking system) to Tokyo (where millions of commuters buy daily commodities with electronic cash on smart-cards). We collaborated with leading scholars in economic and development anthropology in planning, carrying out, and analyzing these studies, and with graduate students from top design schools (Royal College of Art in London, California College of the Arts in San Francisco) in exploring methods of making abstract meanings of money visible and tangible.
Out of these activities emerged key themes and opportunities for technological design innovation. First, one size does not fit all. Support for multiple modes or levels of monetary literacy will be required, as there is no single or “best” practice with which to locate money in daily life, and the changing financial landscape requires on-going reassessment and skill development. People will also need currency wrangling tools to juggle public and private money forms (cash, credit and debit cards, loyalty points, airline miles, gift scrip, etc.) and to create their own earmarks.
Second, people use money socially. They consume financial services, but also produce them, at least informally. Relational banking tools will afford flexible and socially appropriate management of personal loans, donations, and partnerships with family, friends, and valued groups. Technology can enhance expressive consumption by providing new mechanisms to use money meaningfully, even when spent on mundane commodities, and new communication modalities through which these meanings can be read, accounted, and shared.
“Navigating Future Moneyscapes” is a short animated comic book sketching some possible future scenarios that illustrate how these themes and opportunity areas might play out in a day in the life of three characters. Through allegory, caricature, and (we hope) humor, it envisions a set of future urban lifestyles, fads, and accessories through which currency wrangling, relational banking, and expressive consumption could take place in ways that address each character’s distinctive interests, fashion sense, and orientation around money. The story is intended to shed light on our research findings, but also to raise questions about where different monetary innovations are leading, for whom, and in whose interests.
References and links
- Wang, Y. & Mainwaring, S.D. (2008). “Human-Currency Interaction”: Learning from Virtual Currency Use in China. In Proceedings of CHI 2008 (Florence, Italy, 5-10 April, 2008), pp. 25-28. ACM Press. Available online at http://scott.mainzone.com/chi08-human-currency-interaction-china.pdf
- Mainwaring, S.D., March, W., & Maurer, B. (2008). From meiwaku to tokushita! Lessons for digital money design from Japan. In Proceedings of CHI 2008 (Florence, Italy, 5-10 April, 2008), pp. 21-24. ACM Press. Available online at http://scott.mainzone.com/chi08-from-meiwaku-to-tokushita.pdf
- Mainwaring, S.D. & George, C. (2008). Navigating Future Moneyscapes [video]. Presented at the Intel Technology and Research Pavilion, Technology Showcase, Intel Developers Forum, San Francisco, 19-21 August, 2008. Available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq9b6exq--c
About the authors
Scott Mainwaring is a senior researcher in the People and Practices Research (PAPR) group in Intel Research, where he conducts ethnographic fieldwork and design research to understand sources of technological value. His current research interests include digital money and electronic wallets, resistance and accomodation to technical and social infrastructures, sustainable and reflexive design, and Asia and Africa as sites of innovation and inspiration. Before joining Intel and PAPR in 2000, Scott was a member of the research staff at Interval Research Corp., a Palo Alto consumer technology incubator, where he worked on media spaces for lightweight communication, domestic technology research and design, interactive television, and the implications of the aging baby boom generation. Scott has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Stanford University, and an AB in Computer Science from Harvard University. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Camellia George was a summer 2008 design research intern in PAPR. After completing a BFA in Communication Design at Carnegie Mellon University, Camellia worked as a graphic and product designer in her own studio and for Fastback Creative Books. As designer for FCB she helped launch photobook products for Apple, Shutterfly, HP, and Kodak among others. In 2008 she finished her MFA in Design at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. For her thesis research, Camellia employed ethnography and design prototyping to develop the Unfrigerator, an artifact from an alternative present critiquing the material culture of the American agro-industrial complex and how it structures our relationship to food. She will return to CCA this fall to complete an MA in Visual and Critical Studies concentrating her efforts on writing about how mass customization, and particularly digital fabrication, is part of an on-going futurist discourse in design.