Warhols: A Currency Based on Obscurity & Fame

Currency Concept Design Workshop


The currencies to be developed in this workshop, the “Warhols”, are inspired by the iconic statement that in an ever-faster-paced world, anyone will have 15 minutes of fleeting fame. At the same time, in a society with increased surveillance and growing levels of over-sharing, obscurity emerges on the other side of the spectrum as a valuable asset.

Money is a technology designed and engineered by us. From mutual credit circles to debt jubilees and gift economies, the history of money has many valuable lessons and sources of inspiration showing its possibilities as a technology for change. We will interactively learn about alternative currencies and how these influence the way money is used in the society by playing the board game Currency Lab.

The game rules encourage engagement, providing challenges which must be counterpointed by choosing and creating strategies. The efficacy of the strategies is not predefined, but instead negotiated among the players. In this way, each player has to argue and convince the others how the strategies can work in designing and implementing a currency, posing and answering questions and refining their plans together. The challenges and strategies draw inspiration from real examples of alternative currencies from the past and present, including cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, interest-free B2B credit systems like the swiss WIR and local currencies like the Brixton Pounds.

The workshop participants will then work in groups and negotiate the types of goals they want to achieve with their currency design. When we mention design, this doesn’t refer to the visual look of the currency, but to the rules and mechanisms by which it is created, given value and exchanged in the economy. In fact, the currencies will be digital and exchanged by text message, in a system inspired by the Kenyan currency M-Pesa.

The idea is to test the Warhols currency by setting up a special marketplace during the event. The attendants are entitled to receive an amount of different versions of Warhols and can use them to buy and exchange items in this market. The performance of each currency version will then be measured and displayed in real-time graphs.