This is the archived Spring 2015 version of the course. For the most recent version, see

Bitcoin Anthropology Talk

Posted: Wed 25 February 2015

The talk I mentioned in class today is:

Speaker: Lana Swartz, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC

Title: Social Transactions: The Meaning and Management of New Payment Infrastructures

When: Thursday, February 26, 2015, 3:30-4:30 pm (note this overlaps with my scheduled office hours; I'll still have my office hours on Thursday and won't be able to make it to the talk, but I hope some of you will be able to make it to this and summarize it for us)

Where: New Cabell Hall 299a Host: Media Studies Department

ABSTRACT: Money is an interface between people, and it connects them to larger imaginaries like the "nation" and the "economy." Monetary transactions depend on infrastructures, which are always instantiations of relations and meaning. In recent years, economic downturn paired with high penetration of information and communication technology has led to an explosion of imagination and innovation around the form of money. Many have begun to rethink the very infrastructures through which value is measured and transferred. In particular, the tech industry has discovered payment. What was once a slow-moving and marginalized sector of consumer financial services is being rethought as a form of social media. This talk considers how the infrastructures of payment are being taken apart and put back together in new configurations by Silicon Valley. Models native to social media are coming into contact with long standing practices in the payments industry. What are the implications of this interaction for the broader social functions of money and its infrastructures? It is important now to understand this democratization and, crucially, privatization of transaction.

Biography: Lana Swartz is a PhD candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Previously, she received an SM in Comparative Media Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most of her research is about money and other networked communication technologies. She was published payment technologies such as a Diners' Club, the first third party charge card, and Bitcoin, the anarcho-capitalist cryptographic currency.