Sourced from the first MoneyLab General Assembly (Amsterdam, 15 November 2019) and contributions to MoneyLab publications and events in its 7-year history.
The MoneyLab agenda is a list of concerns that persists over changes in technology and policy. Consequently, the agenda is meant to be broad and enduring rather than specific and temporal. Taking ingredients from theory, arts, journalism, activism, design, and technology, future instantiations of MoneyLab can profile themselves against this agenda, either incorporating the wide scope of it, diving into a particular aspect more deeply, or making a case for expanding the focus outside of the agenda. All these approaches are necessary to gain detailed understandings and connect concerns into overarching critiques and strategies in an evolving economic context.
The evolving nature of 21st century capitalism
The attention economy, platform capitalism, gig economy, surveillance capitalism, algorithmic capitalism, the expanding class of the precariat, the capitalocene; there is no shortage of concepts emerging out of economic criticism to describe the current predicament. The next big critical economic theory is interesting to MoneyLab specifically in the way it inspires new insights on a more detailed level. Who is surveilled in surveillance capitalism and what happens to those that try to escape it? What are the rights of invisible workers, click workers, data workers as users move from platform to platform? Who does a cashless society affect most, and how do local communities organize networks of support around it? How does debt have an affect across generations, and how do people conceptualize a world beyond it?
How finance functions
Different rules seem to apply to the financial sector than to broader society. While journalists, activists and artists continue to expose the excesses of high-frequency trading, offshore finance, organized financial crime, and the new ways in which cryptocurrencies might undermine regulations, little changes in the ecosystem of banks, insurance companies and stock markets. MoneyLab continues to chip away at a broken system by any creative or critical means available. Does visualization of (illicit) financial flows help the general audience gain a better understanding of what exactly is at play? Does the world of crypto support cybercrime and fraud, or can it be reimagined to further reform? If corporations bend the rules of finance for their own gain, what would bottom-up financial hacking look like?
Values of future finance and economy
What could a future economy based on solidarity and equity look like? Which values should be central in new financial systems? Who has a voice in creating these systems, and what is needed to make them anti-colonial, feminist, and aware of their entanglement with nature? In an increasingly monetized environment, work is done to develop organizational and technological systems to support the commoning of resources. Peer-2-peer technologies inspire distributed networks of support and care that are more situated than their institutionalized counterparts. Many global examples of platform cooperativism show that ownership of one’s data and the platforms they flow through can function radically differently from the dominant model that came out of Silicon Valley. Can art help us imagine alternative economies that go beyond current constraints? How can we begin to work towards an economy that works within the limits of the planet?
Alternative money design & payment technology
Money can feel like a fact of life, undesigned and neutral. The many different cryptocurrencies that have arisen in the past decade are a case in point that this the opposite is the case. Money is a designed technology that can support particular kinds of interactions over others, and reflects the powers at play in the context in which it was developed. Can locally designed currencies strengthen local communities? What politics are reproduced in altcoins? What can be learned about what money should be like from grassroots and spontaneous currencies?
At the same time, banks and platforms are closing in on eachother in search of access to the most valuable combination of datasets. Data-based financial services expand into social domains, and social media are designing their own transactional interfaces, incorporating banking services and cryptocurrencies in their platforms. Who will come out on top of this race? And will it lead to growing transactional dataveillance or is there a way to appropriate these developments for the democratization of the field?
Fintech beyond currencies
Financial technologies such as blockchain have a much wider application domain than just currencies. Distributed ledger technologies are increasingly seen as the next general purpose technology. Supporting governance in new domains, do these technologies further algorithmic control or are different outcomes possible? How do new technologies influence structures of ownership? Can Distributed Autonomous Organizations be modeled after cooperations instead of corporations? What might fintech look like in an anti-capitalist society?
Strategies of the arts and creative industries
As well as including the insights of artists and designers on matters of money, economy and finance, MoneyLab is concerned with their own financial strategies in economies that value them less and less. Crowdfunding has lost its innocence, and more energy is now focussed on the possibilities of cryptocurrencies and DAOs to transform artistic revenue models and the art market. How can copyright be transformed on the blockchain, and does this lead to more revenue or just to stricter sampling regulations?