2021-11: "Understanding and designing technologies for everyday financial collaboration" published

We are happy to announce that Belén finished her PhD thesis on"Understanding and designing technologies for everyday financial collaboration" which contains many inspirational ideas for future payment systems like GNU Taler:

Perhaps enticed by the promise of reduced marginal costs per customer and other “operational efficiencies”, the financial industry seems to take for granted that introducing technology into their services delivers convenience and makes it easier for people to manage their money. The overwhelmingly positive discourse that surrounds financial technologies portrays them as the inevitable next step in the evolution of money, and as driving consumer empowerment by reducing costs and improving quality of service. Research, however, has linked those very same technologies to new and existing forms of financial exclusion. This raises the question of how we can design financial technologies that promote access and fairness.

In this thesis, I take on this question by casting a critical lens over the design of financial technologies through experiences of financial difficulty and financial third party access. I conducted qualitative studies with a team inside the banking industry tasked with servicing customers deemed “vulnerable”; and with a group of people who live under the “double trouble” (Topor et al., 2016) of mental illness and financial difficulty. The latter trialled a new financial third party access digital service for 3 months. These varied perspectives on financial difficulty and third party access reveal the unintended consequences of introducing technology into our interactions with money, and the theories and assumptions concealed in the design of existing financial technologies.

Based on the insights of these studies, and a synthesis of the literature on the nature of money, this thesis contributes alternative paradigms that may help us design financial technologies differently. Such technologies would reflect an understanding of money as a social relation, and of our finances as a collaborative endeavour. Rather than focusing on efficiency, resource optimisation and asset protection, they would encourage flexibility, complementarity, reflection, appropriation, positive forms of security, collaboration and participation. By designing financial technologies under different theoretical premises and with different priorities, we may promote access, fairness and democratic oversight in financial service provision, particularly for those experiencing financial difficulty.

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