Money is pervasive and integral to so many of our experiences. Recent changes in the financial landscape – from mobile payments to peer-to-peer lending and the rise of local and crypto currencies – mean that now is the time to take a critical perspective on the future of money and the interactions that we will have with it.
Method ran an exploratory research project on the future of money using an insights-led approach to speculative design. The project used trend analysis and ethnographic research to inspire future scenarios. We sought to bring the future into the present and create social experiments in which possible futures could be lived and experienced to stimulate critical discussion.
Data is omnipresent and growing exponentially. It’s the next big thing, the new oil, the key to the future but recent data breaches and the NSA scandal have raised many concerns about our future in the big data bubble. What does our personal data reveal to those who collect and analyse it?
Reconsidering value systems
We live much of our lives digitally and money is no different. A wealth of digital transactions leave a vast trail of data. What can we read from this purchase history? Do your purchases reveal the ‘real’ you? If so, do you have anything to hide?
What can a company infer about a person from their data? And could we alter behaviour based on what information we ask people to expose?
We conducted a social experiment to log our transactions over the course of one month. Using Instagram, a platform normally dedicated to aspirational lifestyle imagery, we shared every transaction in a candid stream. We sought to challenge finance as a social taboo, make it public and start conversations.
While interviewing participants it became clear that there was a fascinating grey area not covered by the Instagram feed, constituting all the purchases that the participants deemed uncomfortable or inappropriate for sharing. We've mapped this out using an anonymous submission system linked to an automated printer – a digital equivalent of a confession booth.
Supporting or disrupting routine
Smart products and services use predictive analytics to study big data and find patterns in user behaviour – which can be used to tailor experiences on an individual level. The shift to digital transactions unlocks the smart potential of money, enabling hard-working services that manage your money, so you don’t have to.
We conducted a social experiment around five potential personalities – Adventurous, Mindful, Jealous, Frugal and Hedonistic. Over the course of a week, five individuals from the Method workforce shared control of their finances with an autonomous digital personality.
Each personality delivered different financial advice. They had their own objectives and means by which to achieve them which came to life in their conversations and tone of voice.
If we designed intelligence and emotion into everyday products and services we create, would they affect our behaviour and better meet our needs?
During the experiment these personalities came to life and changed how our participants behaved. Some were supportive and encouraged their users existing habits while others would disrupt routine and make unexpected decisions.
Affecting decision making
If money were ‘smart’ and exhibited intelligence and emotion, would it feel more human? Would we begin to have a conversation with our money and listen to what it told us?
Bank of Physiology
Our financial services often seem to be designed for idealised humans, rational beings who make informed and sensible choices. However, we are largely unconscious of our decision-making processes and incredibly driven by intuition.
As Daniel Kahneham wrote in Thinking Fast and Slow “Cognitive scientists have emphasized in recent years, cognition is embodied; you think with your body, not only with your brain.”
Convergence of finance and healthcare
This service calls for a new breed of hybrid workers; from a Bank General Practitioner to assess clients and recommend treatment, to a Wellbeing Financial Mentor to plan exercises and activities targeted at balancing the endocrinological levels of the body and in turn financial stability.
How could we design products and services that recognised the reality of our decision making, knowing how to deal with not just the rational, but irrational?
Thinking through making
We explored a range of concepts for devices to monitor hormonal data by prototyping and hacking together existing products. Could a connected device build on existing daily routines as a means to harvest hormonal data from saliva or urine in a manner that is more sympathetic to human behaviour?
For example, perhaps the chip and pin machine may evolve to take a small blood sample to track dominant hormones at the point of purchase. We then designed a companion app to enable users to playback data and witness the interplay between hormones and finances for themselves.
2014 UX Awards: BRONZE for Best Theoretical Exploration