Social Payments: Innovation, Trust, Bitcoin, and the Sharing Economy

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Contributed date

July 17, 2018 - 4:35pm

Critical Commentary


The payments industry—the business of transferring value through public and corporate infrastructures—is undergoing rapid transformation. New business models and regulatory environments disrupt more traditional fee-based strategies, and new entrants seek to displace legacy players by leveraging new mobile platforms and new sources of data. In this increasingly diversified industry landscape, start-ups and established players are attempting to embed payment in ‘social’ experience through novel technologies of accounting for trust. This imagination of the social, however, is being materialized in gated platforms for payment, accounting, and exchange. This paper explores the ambiguous politics of such experiments, specifically those, like Bitcoin or the sharing economy, that delineate an economic imaginary of ‘just us’—a closed and closely guarded community of peers operating under the illusion that there are no mediating institutions undergirding that community. This provokes questions about the intersection of payment and publics. Payment innovators’ attenuated understanding of the social may, we suggest, evacuate the nitty-gritty of politics.


Social Payments: Innovation, Trust, Bitcoin, and the Sharing Economy. Future of Money Research Collaborative:, Taylor C. Nelms, Bill Maurer, Lana Swartz, and Scott Mainwaring. Theory, Culture & Society. Vol 35, Issue 3, pp. 13 - 33.

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Cite as

Taylor Nelms, Bill Maurer, Lana Swartz and Scott Mainwaring, "Social Payments: Innovation, Trust, Bitcoin, and the Sharing Economy", contributed by James Adams, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 17 July 2018, accessed 12 August 2022.