WOS 2 / Proceedings / Panels / Offene Infrastruktur / Open_Money / Keith Harti / skript

Alternative concepts of money

Money today, following a trend to become more insubstantial over the last two centuries, takes the principal form of electronic digits travelling at the speed of light over telephone wires. This makes it easier to see what it has always done: money conveys meaning. As long as it took the principal form of things, made of metal or paper, this function could be obscured. But today money is the way we keep track of a potentially bewildering number of contractual agreements linking us to a great variety of associations. As the number of financial instuments available to individuals proliferates, money is fast becoming personal credit. Information concerning the parties to exchange at distance can now be recorded cheaply and our experience of the economy is being repersonalised as a result.

This is why I draw on the image of a memory bank. From its beginnings in Europe, money was linked to the Goddess of Memory, the mother of the civilized arts and sciences. Communities literally shared the means of communication and exchange; and these significantly involved the meanings conveyed through money. Today money is the most universal means of communication we have. Rather than reject money, as the left has in the past, we need to learn how to make exchange relations that work for us, for each one and for all of us. The internet offers new opportunities for making markets through barter schemes, use of e-monies, community currencies and much else besides. These can be integrated with the capitalist economy in varying degree; but the most radical new forms of money and exchange point to a non-capitalist way forward. It is of some interest to explore whether such open money systems may draw fruitfully on the example of open source software development, as well as perhaps contributing to the solution of the money problems faced by OS.

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