Saturday, November 5, 2016

Week 12: New Money Forms (Mobile Money and Social Relations)

The focus of both sets of readings this week is mobile money as it is used in various parts of the world (Kenya, Afghanistan, India etc). Here I two questions that I'd like us to focus on in class discussions and in the blog posts: (a) How is mobile money similar and/or different to other forms of payment (cash, electronic banking, credit cards)? (b) How is mobile money used and intertwined with social networks and relations?


  1. I think it's interesting that Maurer argues that mobile money can function in all the ways that "traditional money can", and that he claims that alternative forms of money could also potentially create new "closed systems" that limit access to mobile money to new demographics of people.

    That being said, it's interesting how mobile money seems to extend not only the ways in which a person can interact with others, but the number of people with which they can/must interact. I'm thinking here of airtime, which can be bought, sold, and/or traded several times across wide distances, and which by nature of transfer, can mandate one member of the financial transaction to act as the representative of the other half, in a more social interaction (much like Maurer's example of the textbook). In short, it seems that technology (specifically mobile money) can extend our social circles and give us more opportunities for financial interactions, though it isn't all-inclusive.

  2. Mobile money has given us a whole new way to pay for goods, and it has been a way for us to carry our banks around with us. Credit cards and debit cards have had a huge impact on this market. One of the first charge cards was called "charge-It" and it automatically sent a bill to the holders account, and reimbursed the merchant from a Biggins account. The customer had to have an account with Biggins Bank.

    On the other hand mobile money has had a market in the computer and smart phone world. An example of mobile money with computers is the use of online banking, where users can check and manage their accounts from home. Secondly a new form of currency has emerged from the computer age which is BitCoin. BitCoin is an online form of currency that actually has monetary value and can be used to buy goods. With the use of smart phones, we have new apps that come out which allow people to share money not just through bank to bank but on social media as well. A major contributor to this is SnapCash, which is promoted through Snapchat. A person would link up their bank account with snapchat. You would then type in how much money you want to send to the person and if the other person has theirs linked up too, it will automatically send them money. These are just a few ways that mobile money is extending beyond just the normal plastic credit card and debit card standards.

  3. It is really interesting to see how different forms of money can create different meanings in transactions or any sort of exchanges. However, before digging into the changes brought by mobile money, it is important to identify if mobile money is a form of money or not? The way I want to interpret Bill Maurer's idea of mobile money is the writer did not view this as a different form of mobile money rather an upgraded form of transaction. Mobile money - as Maurer refers - is a system of transforming or storage the money via the device of mobile phone. Thus, it is more leaning towards a 'way' or 'medium' of creating/transforming money rather than being a direct form of money. Mobile money is also distinguishable form other forms of money. It has some similarities with electronic banking/credit or debit cards as you can use those mediums to store and transform money from one client to other client without having real money in hand. But, it is really different from cash in terms of transaction. One person cannot go to a shop and just handover mobile money (or the device storing mobile money) in exchange of a commodity or service. It still will need to different agents to cash-out the money (usually this is the practice). Mobile money is also different in terms of its own form. It is applicable only when you have a mobile phone. Unlike the other forms of money being used in various points of history (shell, couri etc.), it does not have any specific 'face-value' of its own. Thus, to me it does not qualify as a different form of money rather only a medium of transacting/storing money.

    Coming to the next question, how mobile money is used or intertwined with social networks and relations? For answering the question, the most important point should be in mind is 'context'. Let us take two examples: MPesa from Kenya and BKash from Bangladesh. Both of these are immensely popular and contributing towards the inclusion of poor people in the economy. In Bangladesh, BKash is even successful to include the middle class population in the network. However, how these things are coming into equation, there is no hard-and-fast rule yet now. Many components are playing roles of interconnecting mobile money with social relations like the geographical location, availability of banks in that place, physical disability, literacy level of targeted population, mind set etc. Thus, to say clearly that mobile money has either strong or weak association with changing social networks/relations is difficult as it is heavily dependent on the context.

  4. Mobile money is a new technology but its ability to be picked up quickly is due to its ease of use. Many of us are already familiar in some fashion with ending money via phones so the idea of mobile money is not too different. Further, Mobile money is similar to existing transactions in that it plays well into the long-standing social environments that it is being used. Where mobile money seems to differ is in that there is no banking institution in place to back up the money and hold it. It is very interesting to see how the ideas that were used to start mobile money shape further economic innovations.

    As far as mobile money's effect on social relationships and networks, mobile money seems to tie into long standing traditions and only amplifies them. Further, it includes women in new ways, such as when forming large reciprocal webs, women are involved as much as men. However, sometimes the women in these situations aren't using the money for their own self interests. These reciprocal webs also tie relatives that would normally be forgotten due to geographical distance. This aspect of mobile money is important in the sense that it strengthens family bonds and creates dynamic social relationships that allow for economic prosperity where there wasn't before.

  5. In reaction to the video that we watched today in class titled "Social Networks of Mobile Money in Western Kenya", I found the anthropological approach to mobile money interesting. Particularly, how the continuation of social economic and kinship trends are being applied to mobile money within Western Kenyan societies.

    The idea of pooling money together and redistributing it among kinship ties to a given need seems like a clear connection to past and present human behaviors. Now I'm not an expert on Kenyan cultures, but the idea of pooling resources together and redistributing them in order to support a given kinship group is pan-cultural and can be traced as far back as hunter gatherer societies. The large differentiating and connecting factor to this kinship redistribution is the role of mobile cellular devices and the mobile money services that come with them. With these devices resource(money) distribution and inter connectivity is expanded. Members of the kinship groups can now be almost be anywhere in the world and receive support from other kinship members. As it was shown in the video a particular Kenyan family received money from their family member in Holland which then was pooled and redistributed back within the local Kenyan family members. This long distance exchanging of resources may seem like a modern product of globalization, which it is, but at its core there are behavioral trends that span human history and culture.

  6. This video really helped me to understand mobile money and M-Pesa.Not only was it interesting to see how the system worked, I was fascinated by the social networks in Kenya. Their social networks are strongly based around siblings, where as in the U.S., I feel like people develop their own individual networks separate from their families. The systems are also equally male and female which reflects some sense of gender equality. However, most of women are recipients,which can become a burden within the network. Regardless, I was shocked at the generosity of the people in Kenya. They were so much more willing to give up their extra money to someone in need while America is obsessed with saving.

  7. Mobile money is considered a new form of technology to us in this day and age. A lot of people have mixed feelings about it, from looking at reddits and online chats. I’m excited to see where it is in 10 or even 5 years from now because of how quickly the ball has picked up speed. Looking back in history, people had mixed feelings in the 1950s when credit credits were first getting started in the US. Now I know mobile money is in a little bit of a different situation because it’s been picked up in countries like Africa, but I think my example of credit cards in the US is a good comparison because it relates to us in a way. Since it’s so new to us, I say just give it some time to develop and let it blossom because the track that it’s on right now has a lot of wonderful potential.

    Mobile money is impacting relations by strengthening them greatly. For one, women are gaining new roles like forming reciprocal webs where they’re being involved as much as men, even if it’s not for personal gain. Now distance isn’t as a problem like it was before. So it doesn’t matter if your aunt or uncle lives down the road from you or 18 hours away, you can still send or receive money from them easier than before. As for mobile money’s impact on social networks, I see it being a social network in itself. An example I can relate to is Venmo. In Venmo you can send money to whoever you want. When you send money, you can attach a message to the receiver to get. You can become friends with people on the app, like the transactions between your friends and comment on the transactions, like you would on Facebook excluding the money part.


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