Heather Horst and I are happy to announce that our foray into exploring the aesthetics of mobile money is now in print. Published in The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media (edited by Gerard Goggin and Larissa Hjorth), our chapter is called "The Aesthetics of Mobile Money Platforms in Haiti."
We examine the design, aesthetics and use of Digicel's TchoTcho Mobile and Voila's T-Cash in Haiti. While mobile money is largely understood through a lens of poverty and economic transactions, in this chapter we suggest that people’s relationship to mobile money has as much to do with the aesthetics of mobile money as a designed environment and platform that goes far beyond the user interface.
The aesthetic ecology of mobile money includes the mobile phone itself, the infrastructure that it depends on, the back-end operations, the agents who sell mobile money services, television and print advertisements, and the instructional leaflets that companies give to account holders.
Drawing upon research carried out in Haiti in 2010 and 2011, we begin by demonstrating the relationship between mobile money and aesthetics. We then shift our focus to two aspects of mobile money: the use of text menus customers use to make transactions, and the wider relationship to money in physical and digital forms.
Building upon conceptions of aesthetics in design and anthropology, we demonstrate the extraordinary nature of the aesthetics surrounding something so seemingly prosaic as mobile money. We highlight how instrumental approaches to adoption and appropriation tend to neglect the relationship between aesthetics and practicality that reflects a particularly Haitian cultural logic.