I was fascinated by a talk that Bill Maurer gave about his latest research with regulators and practitioners in the payment industry. First of all, his 'opening up' of the black box of (electronic) payment is worth mentioning. Payment is not merely the 'reading of the debit/credit card', but several 'stops' (such as the payment device, the 'switch' deciding whether it is debit or credit etc) accompany the transfer along the 'rail'. All of those stakeholders have their own agendas and take a 'fee' for transferring the 'information'. It is secondly the notion of information that Maurer seems to focus on. His very positively formulated argument run approximately like this: digital money is actually not 'better or worse' than cash. It is different in the way that it is not material but rather 'information proper'. It is this information invested in the transfer (all the details about what you bought, where and when, with what means of payment you achieved the purchase etc) that is now valuable.
This reminded me very much about Keith's argument in the last chapter's of 'Money in an unequal world'. Both of them seem to drive forward the argument that money is actually not mainly alienating, disconnecting or stressful - rather its new forms are newly personalized, and actually allow for 'personalization' as a means against alienation and disconnection in the economy.
What I now wondered about: is this reading not very much mirroring the 'ivory-tower'-view? In what way are we as consumer able to 'personalize' money so that it is of any good for us? What can this 'good' be? I struggle very much with putting a meaning behind the idea of 'depersonalizing' money (except in such forms as alternative currencies or localized currencies that obviously both Keith and Bill talk about as well - though in different contexts). Isn't the role of information not also to be found in a commercial sense? Companies are actually already selling the consumer data; Tesco is using it in order to better plan the shop floor or the ordering process. Amazon is implicitly already using the information it collects in the payment process. What about those other companies along the rail track? All of them control certain parts of the information chain which they might be able to (ab)use.
I would be very much interested in your ideas about this.