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.

There’s plenty more academic writing about money and payment on our individual websites!

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.


DuPont (2018) Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Dig­i­tal Me­dia and So­ci­ety. Cambridge: Polity Press.

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

Swartz (2018) “What Was Bitcoin, What Will It Be? The Techno-Economic Imaginaries of a New Money Technology.” Cultural Studies 32(4): 623-650.

DuPont (2018) “Experiments in Algorithmic Governance: An Ethnography of ‘The DAO,’ a Failed Decentralized Autonomous Organization.” In Bitcoin and Beyond: The Challenges and Opportunities of Blockchains for Global Governance. Ed. Campbell-Verduyn. Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

O’Dwyer (2018) “Things that Transact: How the Internet of things is Transforming Payments.” In MoneyLab Reader 2: Overcoming the Hype. Ed. Gloerich, Lovink, and de Vries. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Nelms, Maurer, Swartz, and Mainwaring (2017) “Social Payments: Innovation, Trust, Bitcoin, and the Sharing Economy.” Theory, Culture and Society. (prepublication pdf)

DuPont (2017) “Blockchain Identities: Notational Technologies for Control and Management of Abstracted Entities.” Metaphilosophy 48(5): 634-653.

DuPont (2017) “Review of David Golumbia, The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism.” Journal of Cultural Economy 10(5): 474-476.

DuPont, Mark Coeckelbergh, & Wessel Reijers (2017) “Towards a Philosophy of Financial Technologies.” Philosophy & Technology. Introduction to a special issue on financial technologies.

Maurer (2017) “Blockchains are a Diamond’s Best Friend: Zelizer for the Bitcoin Moment.” In Money Talks. Ed. Bandelj, Wherry, and Zelizer. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 215-229.

Maurer (2017) “Distributed Accounts: Money as Token and Money as Record.” In Distributed Agency. Ed. Enfield and Kockelman. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 109-116.

Maurer (2017) “Value Transfer and Rent: Or, I Didn’t Realize My Payment Was Your Annuity.” In Money in a Human Economy. Ed. Hart. Oxford: Berghahn, 167-188.

O’Dwyer (2017) “Blockchains and Their Pitfalls.” In Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, A New Vision for the Future of Work, and a Fairer Internet. Ed. Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider. New York: O/R Books.

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 (2016) “Cashless, Ancient and Modern.” In The Archaeology of Money. Ed. Haselgrove and Krmnicek. Leicester Archaeology Monographs 24, 209-225.

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

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. Hjorth, Horst, Galloway, and Bell. New York: Routledge, 363-373.

Maurer (2015) “Data-Mining for Development? Poverty, Payment, and Platform.” In Territories of Poverty. Ed. Roy and Crane. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 126-143.

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

Nelms & Maurer (2015) “Emerging Payments and Communities: Reimagining Trust and Mutual Finance.” Working paper, Filene Research Institute.

O’Dwyer (2015) “Money Talks: The Enclosure of Payments.” In MoneyLab Reader: An Intervention in Digital Economy. Lovinck, Tkacz, & de Vries, eds. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

DuPont (2014) “The Politics of Cryptography: Bitcoin and the Ordering Machines.” Journal of Peer Production 4.

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

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

Maurer (2012) “Mobile Money: Communication, Consumption, and Change in the Payments Space.” Journal of Development Studies 48(5): 589-604.

Maurer (2012) “Payment: Forms and Functions of Value Transfer in Contemporary Society.” Cambridge Anthropology 30(2): 15-35.

Maurer (2012). “Regulation as Retrospective Ethnography: Mobile Money and the Arts of Cash.” Banking and Finance Law Review 27(2): 299-313.

Maurer & Mainwaring (2012) “Anthropology with Business: Plural Programs and Future Financial Worlds.” Journal of Business Anthropology 1(2): 177-196.

Maurer, Jake Kendall, Philip Machoka, and Clara Veniard (2012) “An Emerging Platform: From Money Transfer System to Mobile Money Ecosystem.” Innovations 6(4): 49-64.

Maurer (2011) “Money Nutters.” Economic Sociology: The European Electronic Newsletter 12(3): 5-21.

Maurer, Mainwaring, and Wendy March (2008) “From Meiwaku to Tokushita: Lessons for Digital Money Design from Japan.” Proceedings of the 26th annual SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems: 21-24.

Popular Writing

essays, blogs, & reports

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.

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.

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

O’Dwyer (2016) “Where’s the Money?” King’s Review, March 9.

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 (2015) “Money Talks.” Aeon, December 14.

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

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

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

O’Dwyer (2015) “The Revolution Will (Not) Be Decentralized: Blockchains.” The Commons Transition, June 11.

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 (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.


presentations, interviews, & conversations

Nelms & Rea (2018) “An Anthropological Conversation about Mobile Money and Financial Technologies.” The Human Show, May 15.

DuPont, Maurer, Nelms, & O’Dwyer (2017) “Using Blockchain to Secure the Supply Chain.” Conference at UC Irvine, November 14. DuPont and Maurer introduce the blockchain. DuPontNelms, and O’Dwyer discuss Bitcoin and the potential for distributed ledger technology in supply chain management.

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

Swartz (2017) “A Cashless Society?” University of Virginia. (video)

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

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

O’Dwyer (2015) “Storing Value.” MoneyLab 2: Tactics for Economic Dissent.

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

Maurer (2014) “Closed Loops and Private Gateways: Money, Technology and the Public Interest in Payment.” MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives, March 21.

Nelms (2014) “Mobile Money and the Social and Technological Infrastructures of Transaction.” MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives, March 21.

Swartz (2014) “The Past, Present, and Future of Payment: From Diners’ Club to Bitcoin and Beyond.” MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives, March 22.

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 (see the write-up in the Orange County Business Journal; watch the panels and presentations online here)

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)