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Hugs, handshakes & hi-fives… is this the new way to pay?

Heidi Hinder updates us on her Money No Object project 

The future of money, both as a system of exchange and a crafted material token, remains political and debatable. Adopting this line of enquiry through my project, called Money No Object, I began to explore tangible manifestations of digital currency in my craft practice, and thrived on the opportunity for a new way of working, taking a collaborative approach, across interactive technology and innovation. 

Since the intensive three months of the Craft + Tech residency projects, supported by the Crafts Council and Watershed I have continued to go down these avenues for research and collaboration. I recently completed eight months working as a Visiting Artist at the V&A, developing the concept for Money No Object in collaboration with the V&A Digital Programmes and Research departments, thanks to an award from Creativeworks London. 

Money No Object re-imagines museum donation boxes by introducing a more playful and socially interactive process for considering and exchanging value within an arts and cultural institution. The project is a donations system, which explores the use of wearable technology and human contact through social gestures (such as a handshake or hug), as a method by which visitors can make a financial contribution to cultural organisations like the V&A. At the same time, the novel process of donating aims to re-engage audiences with the broader value of the museum, build connections between people, and strengthen social cohesion within their visitor community.

While my craft training was in jewellery, silversmithing and related products, I have developed a series of four wearable digital prototypes, that enable a payment transaction to take place at the point of social contact, through a handshake, high-five, a hug or a tap-dance. 

The technology-embedded wearables include gloves, badges, shoes or a ring, and were launched at the V&A Digital Design Weekend in September 2014, as part of London Design Festival. The wearable donations system seems to have captured the imagination of the press (it recently featured on BBC Worldwide's technology programme Click), as well as of charities, academic researchers and companies, who can see a potential for the development of this novel system. But it was the chance for personal interactions with visitors at the V&A that gave me the most satisfaction, witnessing the joy on their faces as they were shaking hands with me, high-fiving or hugging their donations to the museum.

It seemed as if, where cultural value and the arts were being considered, money was indeed, no object.


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