The curation of the self in the age of the Internet

May 16th 2014

In his famous 1936 essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin describes how art was historically used for ritual purposes. Because the ritual value of art was tied up with its uniqueness, it was unthinkable to reproduce a work of art.

In some respects, this phenomenon continues to exist today, particularly in religious contexts. Every year, up to a million pilgrims walk to the town of Fátima in Portugal to witness a parade in which the statue of Our Lady of Fátima is displayed.

The development of technologies of mechanical reproduction means that it would technically be possible to produce a close copy of this statue, and of course, with photography, millions of images of the Lady circulate around the world freely.

New article on art markets in Hispaniola

May 12th 2014

It's been many years since I swapped my fine art studies for anthropology and economics, but my interests are now converging. I've just published a paper about the trade of paintings in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the journal Visual Studies.

My paper, called "Why the cocks trade: what a transnational art market can reveal about cross-border relations," is part of a special issue addressing the relationship between ethnography and art.

New chapter on mobile money aesthetics

May 9th 2014

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.

Amsterdam: A money laboratory for centuries

March 29th 2014

Take a walk around Amsterdam's historic centre. What do you see? Canals, coffee shops, and stalls selling tulip bulbs are some of the typical features promoted to visitors. Beneath this veneer, however, is a rather startling history of financial innovation whose consequences are felt globally.

To get closer to this legacy, I took a walking tour of Amsterdam's financial history, along with other people who had attended the MoneyLab conference. Run by payments expert Simon Lelieveldt, this two-hour tour takes in the Goliaths and oddities of the city's past and present.