In celebration of the introduction of the new 12-sided £1 coin in the UK last week, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum held a #FridayLate event that brought together artists and designers to discuss society’s relationship with money today. President of San Francisco technology design studio NewDealDesign and the designer behind the Fitbit, Gadi Amit, showcased his new conceptual currency Scrip which attempts to reintroduce the value of money and fiscal responsibility.
Introduced by V&A curator Johanna Agerman Ross, the Quids In event on Currency Design for an Age of Extreme Technology explored how the emergence of digital currencies and virtual transactions has resulted in our understanding of money changing as the concept of currency becomes invisible. When discussing this with the example of contactless cards, Agerman Ross highlighted that ‘cash is more symbolic rather than functional as we no longer need it for transactions. But the effort that is connected to spending is also altered with contactless. Even entering your pin nowadays feels old-fashioned,’ Agerman Ross said.
Amit stated that even 30 years after the introduction of credit and debit cards, ‘cash is still king and the major push to eradicate cash is comical.’ He went on to describe how the fintech industry is somewhat overly interested in a cashless society, but cash is taken for granted as it is untraceable and this is one of the attributes Amit instils in his Scrip product concept. Alongside this, to take the new £1 coin as an example, the Queen’s image embedded onto the coin carries with it sovereignty and a sense of trust ‘that Google will take a long long time to achieve,’ Amit said.
Scrip is marketed as the ‘tangible future of cash’ in a world in which cash is moving from the physical to the abstract. This ‘ATM is your pocket’ is ‘designed to deliberately turn off our financial autopilot’ and unlike other new payments services or systems, Scrip takes influence and inspiration from the way cash works in such a comprehensive and profound way that I have not seen in the technology industry before. ‘Scrip subtlety helps us to understand each bill spent or received, bringing a visceral value back to an intangible number,’ NewDealDesign states.
Using a similar idea as Braille, Scrip would have ripples on its copper surface that would move according to the denominations of money that are spent, mimic the feeling of counting money and in turn, ensure that spending money is humanized. In addition to this, the boost of Oxytocin one receives when getting money means that there is more control over the cash and the idea fiscal responsibility is restored, as Amit believes that the next generation are not aware of the value of money because of its invisibility.
Agerman Ross, in conversation prior to the event, spoke on this issue of connection and interaction. ‘It’s more akin to the way we deal with cash – the swiping action to enable it is similar to the way you would count notes and the weight of the device gets lighter the more money you spend. This physicality of digital transactions enables us to think of how we spend in a different way to contactless cards or Apple Pay. It also has a benefit in that it doesn’t track what you spend, unlike all other digital payment systems, it has an anonymity to it in the same way cash does.’
Scrip also has the capability of exchanging money between users through the device and is personalized with an assigned signature. However, it must be pointed out that this is merely a concept in its early stages of development and all aspects of security have not been considered. As Amit alluded to, crime is always going to be prevalent and it is difficult to stay one step ahead of hackers and fraudsters at all times, but Scrip is a good and solid concept that could become the new way we pay.
‘I think we will see more devices such as Scrip entering the market for real, not just as concepts. But I think it’s also valid to question if actual cash can do more. This week the new one-pound coin was released in the UK but there all of the design features are in relation to stopping counterfeiting rather than to help consumers. Maybe we should expect more from our cash?’ Agerman Ross said.