Filed Under: History and future, Money

Art for crime’s sake

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[Jane Adams] Delegates often say that one of the most valuable things about the Tomorrow’s Transactions (or as previously known Digital Money) Forums is how they spark the imagination. A key part of this over the past few years has been the Future of Money Design Award competitions, organised by Austin Holdworth in association with Consult Hyperion. Austin is a visiting tutor and researcher within the Design Interactions Department at the Royal College of Art. He is the curator of the ‘Future of Money Design Awards’ sponsored by ACI Worldwide & Consult Hyperion.

“When bankers get together they talk about art. When artists get together, they talk about money.”

[Oscar Wilde]

The theme for the competition at Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum 2013 was Future Financial Crime. Entrants were asked to imagine a financial crime, based on future technology.

Three entries were shortlisted, based on written submissions and we asked the shortlistees, with only a week’s notice, to produce a video presentation about their imagined crime, to present at Tomorrow’s Transactions.

The three shortlisted entries were:

Tommy-Knockers by  science writer Frank Swain

This entry imagined a not too distant future in which the 19th century ‘tommy’ or ‘truck’ system had been reintroduced. Inspired perhaps by Iain Duncan Smith’s suggestion that benefit recipients should be limited, by their benefit cards, as to what they could spend their benefits on, the entry extended this to workers too. Paid on stored value cards, workers were able to only spend their wages in company stores on a limited range of products at vastly inflated prices. In the 19th century, this sometimes led to workers effectively paying to have a job. Similar systems were only recently in use in certain Russian industrial single employer cities. The crime lay in people working out how to hack the systems to allow themselves to spend their wages as they chose, but there was a clear ambiguity in the presentation as to whether the crime lay with the hackers or with the system itself.

Synedoche, Hills by Ilona Gaynor

This entry imagined a world in which Second Life was used to launder money, through the purchase of virtual art, property and other high value virtual objects in a virtual city run by fraudsters. In common with all the short listed entries, this appeared clearly feasible, given the convertibility of the Linden Dollar, used as the currency in Second Life (currently convertible at between 310 – 320 to the £).  

Bigshot by Joe Carpita and Craig Stover

The third shortlisted entry took the premise of the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform and using anonymising technologies such as Tor, extended it to a platform for funding organised crime called Bigshot. It appeared to be strongly influenced by Timothy C. May’s seminal 1988 work “The Crypto-Anarchists’ Manifesto”.

Delegates watched each video presentation, with the creatives providing a piquant contrast to the besuited delegates – Frank with his Mohawk hairdo, Ilona with her astonishingly funky glasses and Craig and Joe by their refusal to show up, an ostensibly nihilist position made excusable by the fact they were in Chicago (they linked in by Skype) and we were in London.

Then a panel of judges from the event sponsors ACI, Visa and WorldPay and from Consult Hyperion decided on the winner – Bigshot. The choice was extremely difficult – all the entries were feasible, imaginative and beautifully done. However the technical elegance and very high quality of the video from Craig and Joe stood out and they were declared the winners. Judge Gill Greenwood from ACI Worldwide explained, “The reason we chose Joe and Craig’s submission were:

  1. It was felt to be more genuinely futuristic than the other two, which to some extent exist today
  2. Crowd sourcing/funding and discussions around anonymity and privacy were felt to be important unresolved issues today and so the threats posed by a site such as Big Shot were felt to be potentially real and huge! 
  3. The presentation was really good – communication was effective, and the execution was both creative and professional.”

Austin said, “Although this year’s competition ‘Designing A Future Financial Crime’ isn’t the usual theme for an art challenge – that ought to promote a nice corporate image, it did generate some intriguing concepts.  The artist’s shameless representation of our ugly nature hopefully provoked, challenged and entertained the audience at TT.  It perhaps showed the only difference between a great creative mind and criminal one is… errrmm… money.  Although the downside of the high quality of this year’s work means that next year’s competition will be a greater challenge… any ideas people?”

These are personal opinions and should not be misunderstood as representing the opinions of 
Consult Hyperion or any of its clients or suppliers

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