Level 1: Gaining technical knowledge ?>

Level 1: Gaining technical knowledge

If you undertake an adventure in the financial sector, whether it be in the form of an undercover activist, an embedded anthropologist, or a surrealist reality gamer, you are probably going to learn a lot of technical stuff that might turn out to be useful. Indeed, it is helpful to understand the difference between different banks, funds, financial instruments, concepts, and techniques, and for this reason alone immersive experiences can be desirable and empowering. Getting into the nitty gritty of…

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Levels of hacking: Shallow info gathering to deep reality bending ?>

Levels of hacking: Shallow info gathering to deep reality bending

There is no standard definition for the concept of ‘hacking’ and the broader ‘hacker ethic’ (if you’re interested in this debate, check out my somewhat controversial recent piece on the ‘gentrification of hacking’). This is partly because hacking is not a strict set of activities–like automobile engineering or accounting might be–but rather a certain feel, sensibility or outlook applied to different situations. One attempt to describe this comes from the journalist Steven Levy, who suggested that: Hackers believe that essential…

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Culturehacking component 4: Gonzo reality gaming ?>

Culturehacking component 4: Gonzo reality gaming

If you take the three anthropological traditions described above and blend them together, you get immersive activist upward anthropology. Sounds fun? The problem with anthropology, though, is that it is still Anthropology. It is an official academic discipline with self-conscious methodologies and norms and it is subject to the institutional constraints of academia: the need to produce formal articles, attend conferences and direct your work to peers rather than the public. Anthropology is a career, and it is a career…

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Culturehacking component 3: Upward anthropology ?>

Culturehacking component 3: Upward anthropology

In 1969, Laura Nader wrote an article called “Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained From Studying Up”. In it, Nader asked the following question: “What if, in reinventing anthropology, anthropologists were to study the colonizers rather than the colonized, the culture of power rather than the culture of the powerless, the culture of affluence rather than the culture of poverty”. It was a call to action that inspired some anthropologists to turn their attention towards the upper echelons of their own…

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Culturehacking component 2: Activist anthropology ?>

Culturehacking component 2: Activist anthropology

Anthropology started as a discipline of researchers studying ‘down’, looking into the lives of marginalised groups within the political setting of colonialism. Thus the Oxford-educated gentleman found himself in Papua New Guinea considering the religious rituals of the local people, earnestly relaying it back to the institutions and learned salons of powerful London. As modern anthropologists have tried to shake off this image, the whole political orientation of anthropology has (arguably) shifted leftwards. Anthropology has become associated with international development…

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Culturehacking component 1: Immersive anthropology ?>

Culturehacking component 1: Immersive anthropology

My aunt Penny Bernard is a somewhat controversial South African anthropologist known for (to use a colonial term) ‘going native’ during her research. She became a sangoma–a Zulu shaman–and started using her dreams and visions to guide her research. When I was in high school I took great interest in Penny’s adventures, accompanying her into some truly unusual situations. I watched her drinking blood out of the neck of a slaughtered cow in an initiation ceremony, and played guitar for…

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Dark Side Anthropology & the Art of Financial Culturehacking ?>

Dark Side Anthropology & the Art of Financial Culturehacking

I worked as a financial derivatives broker in London from 2008 to 2010, at a company clinging on for life in the midst of the financial crisis. That is not a particularly long time to work as a broker, but I was never aspiring to it as a career. I was a left-wing activist steeped in the tradition of Marxian political economy and deep-ecology environmentalism, and with a background in anthropology and international development. I was on a quasi-anthropological adventure…

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Peer-to-Peer Review: The State of Academic Bitcoin Research 2015 ?>

Peer-to-Peer Review: The State of Academic Bitcoin Research 2015

I’ve updated my epic BITCOIN ACADEMIC PAPER DATABASE by adding over 280 new papers that were published in 2015. You can download it, and I’ve also included a link to a separate Google doc where you can make suggestions for papers that might have been missed. If you’d like to read about how I’ve built the database and the sources I’ve used, check out my piece about it from last year. Don’t expect it to be perfect – there are omissions and…

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Money is not a store of value. It is a claim upon value ?>

Money is not a store of value. It is a claim upon value

Money is not a store of value. It is a claim upon value. This might sound like pedantic semantics, but it is crucially important, especially if you’re trying to alter how it works. Imagine a Coca Cola bottle with Coke in it. That bottle is a store of value. If I open it and drink the Coke, it will kickstart energy processes in my body and help me to carry on surviving. Now imagine a piece of paper next to…

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Don’t panic, but don’t not panic either ?>

Don’t panic, but don’t not panic either

When thinking about the future of digital finance, the issue is not necessarily whether these services are narrowly useful to an individual. Sure, maybe the contactless card is cool if I’m in a hurry and maybe I can get a decent deal from the AI insurance contract. Rather, the issue is whether they collectively imprison people in digital infrastructures that increasingly undermine personal agency and replace it with coded, inflexible bureaucracy; or whether they truly offer forms of ‘democratisation’. It…

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