Circuit Board Money: An Infrastructural Perspective on Digital Payments

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterBook chapterResearchpeer-review


The term digital money can be used to describe a wide variety of things, ranging from the use of phone credits to cryptocurrencies. Fundamentally, digital money distinguishes itself from cash in that digital money exists as data points, the record of which is kept and maintained by a variety of intermediaries. Thus, where paying with cash involves money changing from hand to hand, digital payment can be defined instead as a request to those intermediaries to edit the records of data.

Drawing on literature from economic anthropology, and the more recent scholarship of digital payments and financial inclusion, this chapter explores the infrastructures of various forms of digital payment; what they mean for how value circulates; who owns them; when; and the role such payment gives intermediaries in governing digital transactions.

These themes are explored through an empirical case of digital wallets in Indonesia, which examines how the language of proprietary platforms can obfuscate the power dynamics imposed through the digitalisation of transactions. Finally, the chapter discusses how the digitalisation of payments introduces specific challenges for ethnographic research, as well as the opportunities and limitations offered by taking an infrastructural approach.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of the Anthropology of Technology
Number of pages18
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • digital payments
  • money
  • peer-to-peer
  • social infrastructure
  • value


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