“Why we love looking at money
but still hate banks”
15th February 2005
• The experience of financial services can tell us a
lot about how people will use public services
through ‘self service technologies’.
• Ethnographic research on money and technology
suggests an alternative model of usage to the
traditional adoption/education approach.
• Self service technologies will transform the social
and cultural context and relationships of citizen,
society and state.
What is ethnography?
Ethnographer in residence at Intel
– ‘It’s based on the idea that you can best absorb a
culture by being there and doing it. An old professor of
mine called it ‘deep hanging out’. You have to actually
be there, hang out with people and participate in their
Putting the individual in their place
- describing „being in the world‟
Two quick examples
“please ignore Mt. Vesuvius”
“When is an ISA not an ISA?”
A journey into the individual‟s imagined
world of money
• Money is largely invisible in people’s lives and it is hard to
discover the meaning.
• So we observed times of transition in people’s lives, when
money was involved to investigate how it became visible in
the real world.
• What we experienced was not the ‘money’ you get in a
bank. That money is socially and culturally neutral in
• Money in the real world is all about usage.
• Money is neutral; usage is social.
Usage of money reflects the way we see the
world and society today
Money reflects the growing tension and disconnection between the
political world of society and the private world of the individual.
The Private The Political
- Solid - Fluid
-Bricks & mortar -Wild
-My place -Public
-Community - Isolated
-Kinship - De-humanised
-Security - ‘across the table’
The private world of the individual is appropriating and adapting
language, products and meaning to express its place in an increasingly
threatening, irrelevant and changeable political environment.
We all have our own individual view of
finances and insurance
Money helps place ourselves in both public
and private worlds
autocratic’ the lifestyle
Two worlds… two very different contexts
Private world of Money Public world of money
Context = Context =
– Home - Risk/Greed
– Life Choices - Fear/Shame
– Identity and Gender - lack of confidence
– Career - lack of control
Success = common sense Success= knowledge & expertise
Adopt or Adapt?
„Consumer‟ = User =
consumer of meaning creating/imagining meaning
Who has read or wants to read the technical manual of money?
Usage is social
• Usage is rich, social and visible.
• Usage communicates our values and creates our place in the
• Usage is creative.
• Usage generates meaning for money.
• Usage creates and demonstrates purpose.
• Usage labels and names money.
People use technology that puts money in
• People want to get close to their money but
do everything they can to avoid getting
close to banks.
– Banks are unnecessarily constrained and formal
social spaces for your money.
– It‟s a common remark that you don‟t feel you
should even cough in a bank.
• Getting close to your money means having
control over the choices and decisions of
your everyday life.
– Individual self expression
– Domestic security and cohesion
Implications for self service government
• „Self service‟ technology will transform the behaviour and
role of government more than it will transform citizens and
• The institutions and infrastructure of big government will
become an increasingly invisible utility for the individual.
• Individuals will adapt and use technology to enhance their
everyday lives and will reject technologies that challenge
the social structures, behaviours and attitudes that make
up their world as they see it.
• As these technologies become more widely used and
distributed, individuals will create new places that allow
them to make political, social and cultural exchanges.
Self service or DIY government?