MoneyLab #7: Outside of Finance

MoneyLab #7: Outside of Finance

 On feminist economics, social payments, corporate crime and the “blokechain”


It’s August 2019. After years of inflation, high unemployment rates, and sharply falling living standards, Argentina’s national currency, the Peso, made a nose dive that further deepened its financial despair. Argentina is one of many countries on the brink of yet another recession.Groundhog Day? History repeating itself? Financial asset markets are declining, the US and China are engaged in a trade war, amidst central banks that fuel record levels of corporate and government borrowing. The ‘solutions’ applied to the last debt crisis seem to push the global economy toward a next collapse. Are you ready to descent into yet another economic depression?

This home-based seventh edition of MoneyLab will provide a platform for artists, researchers, activists and geeks to show what role art, activism, feminism, journalism and design is playing in re-thinking money, the critique of fin-tech and the democratization of finance. With a debt crisis looming, many feel the urgency to move away from the legacy powers and monetary institutions of the previous centuries. But what are the alternatives on offer? MoneyLab#7 explores what is happening outside of global finance, with a special focus on social payments, value systems and the premisses of crypto design.

As crypto fantasies overflow with the same old biases, the question who will redefine money becomes more relevant by the day. Designing the architecture of money cannot be left to libertarian men that dream of autarky. At MoneyLab #7, we’ll be looking beyond the world of libertarian start-ups with their often masculine preoccupations aimed at fortifying eroding notions of identity, autonomy, property and copyright. Instead, at MoneyLab#7 we imagine a crypto economy that values care work and focuses on equity and solidarity. Fueled by feminist critique and aimed at decolonizing existing power structures in the economy, we look at promising counter-narratives and design strategies that parry the corporatization of digital money, from hyperlocal cryptocurrencies at techno festivals, to the SheDAO and self-organized exchange systems in refugee communities.

Facebook crashed the crypto-party earlier this year by announcing their faux-chain Libra currency. Is it just a first attempt to copycat China’s WeChat and Alipay? With Facebook Libra, the whispers of the financialization of the social reached mainstream audiences. What are the implications of the convergence of a social media monopolist, a crypto currency and a payment system? Is there anything to be learned from the Chinese examples that we comfortably position as doom scenarios from the Other side? How do we parry the cycle of competition between old, established players and new financial industries on markets that are still caught in bubble and burst dynamics?

Decades into the story of crypto there’s still a lot of speculation—both in terms of money and concepts—and not a lot of actual use cases. When is this about to change? What new business models make developments in fintech possible? Like it or not, the avant-garde of fintech-uptake can be found in the online sex industry, pump ‘n dump schemes, on dark markets, and in corporate cybercrime.  What can be learned from attempts to regulation and reform? What would it take to globally govern blockchains and cryptocurrencies and is it possible and desirable?

The event features the first General Assembly of the MoneyLab fellow travelers. The aim of the community gathering is to co-produce a vision and research agenda, defining themes, issues and developments in the field of financial technology that aim to redistribute wealth and set up peer-to-peer exchanges in order to establish fair and sustainable living wages.

“Revolution,” Audre Lorde once wrote, “is not a one time event.” We need to harness group power, work collaboratively from the margins and against the mainstream. Chains of engagement, as Felix Guattari believed, have to be “continually reinvented, started again from scratch.” The aim of MoneyLab #7 is to explore new possibilities to prevent becoming “trapped in a cycle of deathly repetition.”

Join us at this home-based 7th edition filled with workshops, performances, screenings and discussions on pressing financial issues. With artists, academics, activists and geeks, we explore what role(s) art, activism and design can play in expanding the financial ecology of alternatives.

When: 14 + 15 November 2019

Where: Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam

—–

Tickets:

Regular tickets: Day ticket 30 euro, passe-partout 60 euro.

Students (other then HvA): 50% discount.

You can get your tickets here.

HvA employees and students can get a free ticket by sending an e-mail (from your HvA e-mail address) to barbara [at] networkcultures [dot] org.

Register for the MoneyLab mailinglist to stay up to date.

—–

1. New Horizons & Counter Narratives

This panoramic opening session offers an overview of the diversity of topics that are emerging outside of the mainstream. An alternative political economy is not merely about including voices that have long been marginalized or excluded. For one, it understands that the history and the development of capitalism and global finance—including its concepts, theories and methods—are gendered, racialized, sexualized, and eurocentric, and its effects reach far beyond the financial markets. A critical approach to global finance requires the examination of its operations as normalizing, unequal relations. This work includes the dismantling of strong-holding grand narratives that seem to be impervious to change and criticism. 

 

During this panel, Micky Lee offers a feminist political economic and postcolonial critique of the Tulipomania discourse. Brett Scott discusses the politics and many faces of digital cash. Ana Teixeira Pinto delves into the xenofobia and anti-Semitism of Bitcoin ideologues. Reijer Pieter Hendrikse explains the relation between offshore finance and the breakup of social contracts underlying welfare states, ecological disaster, financial crises and rising authoritarianism. 

Speakers: Micky Lee, Brett Scott, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Reijer Pieter Hendrikse

Moderator: Geert Lovink

2. Beyond the “Blokechain”: the Cryptofeminist Agenda

Defining the architecture of money is too important leave to rightwing libertarian men that dream of autarky—this is what we want to change. What does a crypto-economy look like that values care work? How can the ‘whales’ of blockchain innovation come to understand that they need an equitable system to be sustainable? And what’s up with the SheDAO?

 Speakers: Andy Morales Coto, Stacco Troncoso / Ruth Catlow, Ailie Rutherford

Moderator: Rachel Falconer

3.  AltFin: Experiments from Prototype to Pilot

This session is a wild mix of workshops, project pitches, local reports, and film screenings that show ways into a future for alt-finance.

Project Pitches by: Gregory Tsardanidis (Synergy), Silvia Díaz Molina (P2P Models), Anna Kervers (Unmuting Money)

Workshops by: RYBN, Blockchain and Society Policy Research Lab, Furtherfield

Films by: Mischo Antadze, Emily Martinez

4. MoneyLab General Assembly 

The first day ends with a general assembly. All are welcome to contribute!

5. Payments and the Platforms: Libra’s Monetization of the Social 

With Facebook Libra, the whispers of the financialization of the social reached mainstream audiences. Are the countless digital payment systems doomed to repeat history? Will the dream of a participatory, free, P2P, transactional community that dismantles the age-old architecture of financial power end up in a centralized, global, one-currency payment system headed by white, male, wishy-washy bankers-cum-techfeudalists? What can we expect from the competition between century-old and new financial competitors?

Lana Swarts argues that if national currency represents liberal democracy, and Bitcoin represents some combination of techno-libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism, then Libra represents Silicon Valley feudalism. Andrea Fumagalli historicizes the liberalization of the issuance of money all the way up to today’s attempt by Libra to financialize sentiments in “the economy of interiority”, and Valeria Ferrari discusses what remains of the dream of peer-to-peer, decentralized platforms in light of Libra.

Speakers: Lana Swartz, Andrea Fumagalli, Valeria Ferrari

6. The Artennae of Finance

Art can pin the interlocking of imperialist, white, supremacist, capitalist patriarchy on a map. Art can redesign value, reconfigure capitalism and disrupt systems designed to consolidate power. Art can draw the lines that connect western art history, to value systems, to property laws and crypto-kitties, point to alternative routes toward collectivity and decentralized distribution, and away from enforced scarcity and deflationary speculation economies. Art makes connections between digital economy, anthropogenic concerns, precarious labor, the sex work, and climate justice.

Below the waters of the Channel risked by migrants in an attempt to cross and enter the UK lie the fastest microwave submarine cables network that connect the exchange markets of Frankfurt and London. Alexandre Laumonier details the use of the same infrastructure by financial traders and migrants. Stephanie Rothenberg maps the explicit links between the environmental crisis, big money, and alternative forms of digital economies. Eric Barry Drasin introduces the distributed art object, a technological and legal stack that gives rise to an emergent concept of digital art forms of ephemeral property. Antonia Hernández dicusses the power politics of tokens on sexcam platforms and money-activated teledildonics.

Speakers: Alexandre Laumonier, Eric Barry Drasin, Antonia Hernández, Aude Launay, Stephanie Rothenberg

Moderator: Patricia de Vries 

7. Financial Hacking: From Dark Web Smokescreens to White-Collar Crime

Stories of the entanglement of offshore banking, cryptocurrencies, the dark web, and white-collar (cyber)crime abound, leading to calls for crackdowns, policing and prohibition. A growing group of financially and technically literate journalists and scholars are doing the important work of shedding an informed light on the relations between central banks, governments, the crypto industry, the dark web, and global white-collar crime schemes.

While some look at possible ways forward for regulating and reforming cryptotechnologies, others outline the newest tactics in online extortion and the sale of illegal goods. What are the takeaways of these different investigative projects? What can be learned from American, Chinese and Russian attempts to regulate and reform? 

Josephine Wolff provides an account of the larger history and development of cybercrime business models, from the theft of payment card data to identity fraud and ransomware. Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn discusses the perils and possibilities of bringing cryptocurrencies into official regulatory remit. 

Speakers: Malcolm Campbell Verduyn, Josephine Wolff, Thomas Bollen 

 

The final program will be announced in by the end of September. Register for the MoneyLab mailinglist to keep up to date.

If your institution requires a letter of invitation in order to cover costs to attend the conference, we can provide this for you. Please contact barbara [at] networkcultures [dot] org