Session 6

AltFin: Experiments from Prototype to Pilot

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

Project Pitches

With: Gregory Tsardanidis, Silvia Díaz Molina, Anna Kervers

Moderator: Miriam Rasch

Synergy: a financial toolkit for Cooperatives

Synergy is a financial toolkit for cooperatives based on a distributed ledger developed by Sociality Cooperative. It is currently funded by the NGI Ledger program. The goal is to create a system able to provide financial services to cooperatives such as loyalty, micro-funding, micro-credit , and internal transactions. This way we want to help the coop community overcome challenges such as lack of liquidity and investment capacity. Sociality, as a coop itself, has experienced how these challenges limit the prospects of the Social & Solidarity Economy in Greece, which has grown as a response to the crisis. The system will be co-designed by the coop community in Athens through meetings and workshops and operate using blockchain technology. Moreover, we will implement privacy-by-design elements to ensure data privacy for the users and run an awareness campaign as an onboarding mechanism for coops. Our goal is to make the toolkit easily replicable and modular so the coop communities can recreate it in different cities and govern it in a community based approach.

Gregory Tsardanidis is a researcher, interaction designer and developer. He holds a Bachelor in Management Science & Technology from the Athens University of Economics and Business and an MSc in Human-Centered Multimedia from the University of Amsterdam. Since 2014 he participates in the Sociality Cooperative as a web developer and an interaction designer. In 2019 he joined Open Lab Athens as a researcher working on participatory design in public services and social initiatives.

The Place of Blockchain in a Possible Feminist Economy

What would the economy look like if we rebuild it from a feminist perspective? This means putting care work and the sustainability of life at the center when considering economic relations and how emerging technologies, such as the blockchain, could help to achieve this. Is it possible to talk about a feminist blockchain and feminist DAOs? Do we need technological empowerment or is the technology a masculine terrain? This presentation by Silvia Díaz Molina, who is part of the P2P Models project in Madrid, will try to answer all these questions and the importance of a future built with diverse perspectives.

Silvia Díaz Molina, anthropologist specialized in gender studies. Always interested in cultural diversity, she studies Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Complutense University of Madrid. After a few years as an expat, she does a master’s degree in Gender Studies and Development Cooperation. She is currently a social researcher in the P2PModels project, exploring blockchain’s potentials from a critical perspective.

Unmuting Money

Imagine that sustainability transitions were profitable, there wouldn’t be a climate crisis today. Despite fifty years of scientific evidence and twenty-five years of international governmental policy, the reality of the climate crisis is only becoming more pressing each day. In failing to act, lack of money plays a significant role.

Money appears to be natural today. Like rain. You may like the way rain works or not, it’s a fact of life. In reality, money is more like technology. It resembles bikes much more than it resembles rain. Money can be designed in endless ways and different designs of money have different corresponding arrangements of price and return. Yet today hegemonic money is an implicit assumption. We are told that solving the climate crisis only requires employing money in the right way. For instance by ‘voting’ with our money.

But hegemonic money can’t be used differently enough for sincere climate action. Introducing different designs of money is a requirement and leverage point for sincere action on the climate crisis. Unmuting Money explores how hegemonic money complicates transitioning to an embedded economy. Subsequently, if conventional money can’t do the job, what alternative designs can we turn to?

Anne Kervers is a researcher and activist who works to put money back on the political agenda. She worked two years at Triodos Bank on various research projects. Anne completed studies in the fields of Cultural Analysis, Economics, Ethics and Future Planet Studies. Based on her thesis Towards Anthropocene Currencies, Anne initiated the project Unmuting Money. This project debunks money as a natural phenomenon, to allow for the emergence of sustainable monetary designs.


The Great Offshore: VFA

The Great Offshore is an art investigation project that explores the depth of the offshore finance industry. Through multiple field trips, the research has gathered multiple documents, collected in some of the most notorious tax havens: the City of London, Zürich and Pfäffikon, Vaduz, Jersey & Guernsey, Delaware, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Amsterdam, Malta and Dublin. These documents offer the prime material for speculative design artworks aiming to index and underline the infrastructural aspects of the tax evasion industry. In Malta, the self proclaimed “blockchain island”, RYBN.ORG have analyzed the existing relationships between offshore finance and cryptocurrencies, rebranded as VFA – Virtual Financial Assets – within the opaque offshore circuit.

After giving some key elements on the Maltese historical and political context, and on the specificities of the Maltese laws on crypto-currencies, RYBN.ORG proposes a participatory workshop where participants are invited to discuss and exchange on cryptocurrencies applied to offshore economics.

RYBN.ORG is an extra-disciplinary artistic research platform created in 1999. RYBN.ORG leads investigations within the realms of high-frequency economics and information technologies, writing kabbalistic algorithms, inserting suicidal trading machines into the financial markets, perverting neural networks during their training phase or hunting ghosts in the noise of data traffic. The works of RYBN.ORG have been shown in numerous contemporary art exhibitions such as Infosphäre (ZKM), Nervöse System (HKW), the Global Contemporary (ZKM), 2062 (la Gaîté lyrique), Stock Overflow (iMAL), El Processo Como Paradigma (LABoral), Gutes Böses Geld (Kunsthalle Baden-Baden), Requiem for a Bank (HMKV), and Media Mediums/ Haunted by Algorithms (Ygrec).

Critical research methods on cryptocurrencies and other blockchains

The creation of alternative systems that operate outside of the realm of the existing financial structures has led to the establishment of a new field: cryptoeconomics. The ever-growing number of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies embodies this aspiration of “alt-finance” by applying different architectural, technical, and governance design choices. While many scholars from diverse research backgrounds have taken up the ambitious task of researching the malleable and volatile landscape that cryptocurrencies occupy, there is a significant lack of coordination regarding the nature of best applicable research methods. From art to statistical analysis, blockchain-related projects face similar research and experiment design issues.

This workshop invites all attendees and members of the MoneyLab network to participate in the discussion. Its goal is to identify the methodological needs of interdisciplinary research areas in this field and the difficulties that researchers face. What are the obstacles in applying qualitative and quantitative research methods and how can we overcome them? How can we create reliable datasets in this environment of short-lived blockchain projects? What is the optimal software monitoring method that can be applied in these same projects? What are the legal, technical, organizational issues that researchers in this field have to face?

Blockchain and Society Policy Research Lab:

Balazs Bodo is the PI of Blockchain and Society Policy Research Lab. He is a research scientist at the Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam. He is a 2 time Fulbright Scholar (2006-7, Stanford University; 2012 Harvard University), and a former Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow (2013-15). He has a strong interdisciplinary background, having a degree in Economics (MSc, Corvinus University, 1999), and a PhD in Media Studies (ELTE, 2011). In recent years I have worked on copyright piracy, and algorithmic information personalization.

Alexandra Giannopoulou is a postdoctoral researcher at the Blockchain and Society Policy Lab at the Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam. She is an associate researcher at the Center for Internet and Society, CNRS in Paris and she has also worked as a research fellow at Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in Berlin. Alexandra holds a PhD in law from the University of Paris II Panthéon Assas. Her PhD thesis entitled “The Creative Commons licenses” is forthcoming at editions L’Harmattan.

How will the tooth fairy pay you on Planet Cashless?

What does ‘cashless’ mean today, what could it mean in the future? What are the pitfalls of ‘going cashless’ in any given community? Increasingly, ‘financial literacy’ means the ability to navigate and use ‘frictionless’ banking and payment systems in which convenience and slick user experience eclipse concerns for privacy and financial autonomy. What are the challenges of engaging young people (perhaps as young as 12+) on these critical issues? What role could alternative, community-run currencies or transaction systems play in this context?

In this workshop, we aim to prototype participative, playful scenarios around potential future financial catastrophes (both small and large) connected to cashlessness in the face of: environmental collapse and unsustainable power usage; structural violence aimed at marginalised labour; increased corporate and state control; privacy invasion; etc. We will also discuss how such scenarios could be used in participatory Planet Cashless events, and consider the potentials of establishing networks for circulating these resources regionally and internationally.

This 2-hour workshop is part of Furtherfield’s 3-year Citizen Sci-fi programme, which crowdsources the imaginations of artists, techies and thinkers and connecting them to local communities. MoneyLab’s mix of critical, activist and artistic participants are invited to join Martin Zeilinger and Ruth Catlow to prototype speculative scenarios and distribution structures for Planet Cashless.

Ruth Catlow (see Beyond the “Blokechain” session for biography)

Martin Zeilinger (Senior Lecturer in Computational Arts, Abertay University) is a new media researcher, curator, and practitioner interested in intersections between contemporary art, emerging technologies, and financial activism. Martin was the lead organiser for MoneyLab #4 in London. He has co-curated Vector Festival (CAN) since 2013, and is a member of the NEoN Festival (UK) curatorial collective. His research has been published in journals including Philosophy & Technology and books such as the MoneyLab Reader 2 and Artists Re:Thinking the Blockchain; he is currently completing a monograph entitled Digital Art and the Ends of Appropriation.


The Insufferable Whiteness of Being (Anxious to Make (Emily Martinez & Liat Berdugo), 12’, 2018)

As crypto-rich investors relocate to Puerto Rico to build a new crypto-utopia called “Sol” (formally, “Puertopia”), The Insufferable Whiteness of Being considers their utopian vision within the larger historical context of colonialism and exploitation on the island. The video combines text drawn from online, comment-thread arguments about the island’s future with images of Puerto Rico from Western art history, travel and tourism videos, U.S. military training documentation, luxury real estate tours, and post-hurricane Maria drone footage.

The Harvest (Misho Antadze, 70’, 2019)

Initially conceived as a project to explore the gold rush of cryptocurrency mining in the rural region of Kakheti in Georgia, The Harvest is an exploration of the relationship between nature, technology, and the changing landscape.