What We Do

We conduct ethnographic and historical research on money, especially in conjunction with technological change.

Our books offer a good place to start! We have written for academic and popular audiences on a variety of topics related to novel and emerging payment and accounting technologies, including mobile money, peer/on-demand/gig economy platforms, cryptocurrencies (especially Bitcoin), and the financial and non-financial uses of the blockchain. We have also written about the culture and history of payment infrastructures, financial inclusion and development, cash and cashlessness, big data, and the uses, forms, meanings, and politics of money generally.

Sometimes we host workshops and other events, and we often contribute to media reports on various aspects of the payments industry. Feel free to get in touch!

Our work has been supported by the Filene Research Institute, Intel Labs, the National Science Foundation, and others.


Maurer & Swartz, eds. (2017) Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and other Money Stuff. Cambridge: The MIT Press. With chapters by Mainwaring, Maurer, Nelms, Swartz, and many others!

Maurer (2015) How Would You Like to Pay? How Technology Is Changing the Future of Money. Durham: Duke University Press.

Academic Writing

journal articles, chapters, & working papers

Nelms, Maurer, Swartz, and Mainwaring (Forthcoming) “Social Payments: Innovation, Trust, Bitcoin, and the Sharing Economy.” Theory, Culture and Society. (prepublication pdf)

Swartz (2017) “Blockchain Dreams: Imagining Techno-Economic Alternatives After Bitcoin.” In Another Economy Is Possible: Culture and Economy in a Time of Crisis. Ed. Manuel Castells. Cambridge: Polity, 82-105.

Maurer (2017) “Blockchains are a Diamond’s Best Friend: Zelizer for the Bitcoin Moment.” In Money Talks: Explaining How Money Really Works. Ed. Nina Bandelj, Frederick Wherry, & Viviana Zelizer. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 215-229.

Maurer (2017) “Money as Token and Money as Record in Distributed Accounts.” In Distributed Agency. Ed. N.J. Enfield and Paul Kockelman, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 109-116.

Rea, Ursula Dalinghaus, Nelms, & Maurer (2016) “Riding the Rails of Mobile Payments: Financial Inclusion, Mobile Phones, and Infrastructure.” In The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography. Ed. L. Hjorth, H. Horst, A. Galloway, G. Bell. New York: Routledge, 363-373.

Swartz & Kevin Driscoll (2016) “The Lonely Old Bitcoin Miner Touches Eternity: Or, What is a Peer?” Print edition of King’s Review. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Maurer (2016) “Re-risking in Realtime. On Possible Futures for Finance after the Blockchain.” Behemoth: A Journal on Civilization 9(2): 82-96.

Nelms (2015) “‘Ecuador Bans Bitcoin!’ A Monetary Mix-Up.” King’s Review, October 20.

Maurer & Quinn DuPont (2015) “Ledgers and Law in the Blockchain.” King’s Review, June 23.

Maurer & Tom Boellstorff (with Genevieve Bell, Melissa Gregg, & Nick Seaver) (2015) Data: Now Bigger and Better! Chicago: Chicago University Press & Prickly Paradigm Press.

Maurer & Swartz (2015) “Wild, Wild West: A View from Two California Schoolmarms.” In MoneyLab Reader: An Intervention in Digital Economy. Lovinck, Tkacz, & de Vries, eds. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Maurer & Nelms (2014) “Payment and Its Publics: Emerging Payment Systems and Reimaginings of Trust and Mutual Finance.” Filene Research Institute working paper.

Maurer, Nelms, & Swartz (2013) “‘When Perhaps the Real Problem is Money Itself!’: The Practical Materiality of Bitcoin.” Social Semiotics 23(2): 261-277.

Maurer & Swartz (2013) “Payment Technologies: Past, Present, and Future. An Initial Provocation.” Conference provocation/working paper.

Maurer, Nelms, & Rea (2013) “‘Bridges to Cash’: Channelling Agency in Mobile Money.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(1): 52-74.

Popular Writing

essays, blogs, reports, & multimedia

Rea (2017) “Can Financial Inclusion Be Synonymous with Financial Justice and Equity?” Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion, November 1.

Nelms & Maurer (2017) “Give and Take, Part 1: Demonetization’s Pragmatics and Politics” and “Give and Take, Part 2: Demonetization and the Pedigrees of Money.” Cultural Anthropology Hot Spot on “Demonetization: Critical Responses to India’s Cash(/less) Experiment,” September 27.

Swartz (2017) “The Dream of a Cashless Society.” University of Virginia.

Maurer & Swartz (2017) Three guest blogs on Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff. 1: “On Cash and Stuff.” 2: “Curating the New (and Old) Stuff of Money.” 3: “Considering Money Stuff” (with contributions from Alexandra Lippman, Whitney Trettien, and Jane Guyer). Socializing Finance: A Blog on the Social Studies of Finance, June.

Maurer (2015) “The Swipe.” VISA Tech Matters, April 28.

Swartz & Maurer (2014) “The Future of Money-Like Things.” The Atlantic, May 22.

Alexandra Lippman, with Swartz & Maurer (2014) “The Los Angeles Payments Project.” Online mapping project.

Maurer, Jenny Fan, Smoki Musaraj, Ivan Small, Nelms, Beth Reddy, & Nathan Dobson (2013) “Digital Payment Client Uptake Warning Signs and Ways Forward.” Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion.

Maurer (2012) “Money Loyalties.” Advertising 20/20, Wharton Future of Advertising Program.

Maurer and Rea (2012) Four guest blogs on cashlessness. 1: “Toward Cashlessness?” 2: “Cash: Killing It, or Building Bridges to It?” 3: “Platform, Infrastructure, Utility?” Credit Slips, April.

Swartz (2012) “A Dispatch from the Future (of Money and Technology).” Cultural Anthropology. Theorizing the Contemporary – Finance.

Maurer (2010) “Monetary Ecologies and Repertoires: Research from the Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion. First Annual Report and Design Principles.” Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion.


interviews & conversations

Swartz (2017) “Are We Working Towards a Cashless Society?” NewsRadio WINA Charlottesville, June 16.

Swartz (2016) “The End of Cash?” BBC Newshour Extra, September 3.

Maurer (2016) “It tells you something about the fact that money right now is being profoundly ungrounded.” BitcoinBlog.de, July 27.

Nelms (2014) “Sharing Economies on the Rise.” Central Standard, KCUR Kansas City Public Media, May 6.

Nelms (2013) “The Bitcoin Bandwagon.” First Business News, December 26.


workshops, conferences, & convenings

Using Blockchain to Secure the Supply Chain: Distributed Ledgers and Logistics for Critical Goods (2017), UC Irvine

Innovations in Payments Afterparty, I & II (2015, 2016), UC Irvine

Bitcoin and the Blockchain, I & II (2014, 2015), UC Irvine

Money as Communication (2014), USC (see the write-up by Joe Deville on Charisma and TRANSACTIONS)

Imagining (the Future of) Money, with Max Haiven and Eduard de Jong (2014), UC Irvine

Payment Technologies: Past, Present, and Future (2013), UC Irvine (see the write-up by Irving Wladawsky-Berger on his blog and in the Wall Street Journal)