Is digital currency changing how we see the value of money?

17 Nov 2023

Rachel O’Dwyer. Image: Jenny Darmody

In the latest episode of For Tech’s Sake, we explore the cultural concept of value and how it’s changing amid the evolution of digital finance.

Money is often hard for people to get their head around, even without the introduction of digital platforms and cryptocurrencies. Now, as the world of fintech advances – and regulation desperately attempts to play catch-up – the meaning of money continues to evolve.

There have been a lot of developments in fintech recently that have hit headlines, from the major FTX scandal in which Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, to the NFTs that were selling for millions and are now practically worthless.

In order to make sense of the advancing digital side of money, For Tech’s Sake’s latest episode sought to understand it from a cultural perspective, exploring the concept of value and how the digital world is disrupting this concept as we know it.

To do this, we spoke to Rachel O’Dwyer, a lecturer in digital cultures at the National College of Art and Design and the author of Tokens: The Future of Money in the Age of the Platform.

She spoke about the concept of digital tokens and how they can be used for those who receive payment online such as streamers, but on the flipside, how they can exploit users by ensuring their ‘money’ stays within a specific ecosystem.

“If you’re a viewer who wants to buy these tokens to tip, or ‘cheer’ in the vernacular of the platform, for a streamer or performer on one of these platforms, it’s very easy for you to turn your money, your state-backed money, your real money, into a token but it’s quite difficult for the worker on the platform to turn that token back into real money,” she said.

“It can take a lot of time, it can be very costly in terms of the platform taking cuts or fees … but also it can just be really difficult.”

Check out the full episode with Rachel O’Dwyer and subscribe for more.

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