Digital earmarking

Over the last decade, numerous possibilities to handle personal finances digitally have emerged. Besides banks, tech giants and fintechs are constantly introducing new products and promises about the digital future of personal finances. One goal is to transform the experience of financial services into digital and convenient practices seamlessly integrated into everyday life—saving goals and paid bills are just another click away. Tatjana’s project investigates how these macro-level developments are affecting financial practices on the micro-level of everyday life.

Thereby, the project follows one crucial assumption: money is social. Individuals differentiate money into a variety of monies depending on the source, purpose, and social ties involved. This process is called earmarking. For example, individuals may think differently about how to spend their salary compared to the coins jingling in their pockets. But what about the balance stored in PayPal, WISE or other payment accounts? The subproject proposes that digital financial services promise new ways to differentiate money and thereby digitally earmark social and intimate relations. However, it is not immediately obvious how new practices of digital earmarking are developed and used, and what logic and narratives are motivating and guiding digital earmarking in everyday life.

The project is set in Sweden where paying and handling financial matters digitally is already widely adopted in everyday life. Besides qualitative interviews with an explorative sample of consumers, the study also draws on ethnographic field observations and expert interviews.