Partners who never meet: An ethnographic perspective on peers and intermediaries in Indonesia’s P2P economy

Research output: Contribution to conference - NOT published in proceeding or journalConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review


The term ‘peer-to-peer’ (P2P) describes a technological infrastructure where two computer systems connect and share files without requiring a central server. The term is seeing increasing use within emerging financial technologies, where the peers have become people, and the integer ‘2’ signifies an intermediary technology facilitating an economic exchange. While the notion of a peer is typically deployed to invoke images of equality or socio-economic alignment, what does peerhood mean when the term P2P is used to describe services and technology ranging from Uber and international remittances to blockchain and Airbnb? In this paper, I explore peerhood through an empirical study based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Indonesia. Through the case of the digital wallet Go-Pay, I explore how the P2P wallet emerged as a socio-technical system with particular infrastructural and legislative conditions. I show how the intermediary company behind the wallet technology promotes an imagined peerhood between the different user groups of the app, and exemplify how the 2-hood of the economic exchange becomes evident in the various affordances and control mechanisms of the app. Thus, I make the argument that the promotion of the notion of peerhood obfuscates how the app actually configures its users to participate in an unequal relationship while minimizing the role of the intermediary. Finally, I detail how the same user groups co-opt the platform and enact their own variations of peerhood through collaborative practices.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date5 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2019
EventSociety for Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting: Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations - New Orleans, New Orleans, United States
Duration: 4 Sept 20197 Sept 2019


ConferenceSociety for Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting
LocationNew Orleans
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans


  • P2P
  • digital payments
  • Indonesia
  • peerhood
  • intermediaries


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