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Dr. Sebastian Gießmann

University Siegen

Sebastian Gießmann

History and theory of digital payment

My research project is dedicated to the history and theory of digital payment. It assumes that the digitisation of payment systems has taken place in three major spurts: Beginning with the development of computer-based infrastructures for processing credit card payments from 1968, continuing with the standardisation of chip-based payment cards in the 1990s, and intensifying with the wide establishment of mobile phone-based payment systems and new digital currencies since 2010. This already more than 50-year media history of digital payments is reconstructed against the background of the current convergence of mobile payment systems with blockchain infrastructures.

The transformation of digital money is a public matter, or at least should be understood as such. The research project sees itself as a historical-reflexive and formative critique at the same time. We need new public infrastructures of money that translate the existing institutional guarantees and trust mechanisms into the reality of the 21st century. Money as a social medium is simply too important to be left to digital avant-gardes of use, private-sector innovation or initiatives of individual states alone.

Research focus

  • Media history of the credit card and digital payment, “financial technologies
  • Internet, bureaucracy and digitality research
  • Material culture and knowledge history of networks and networks
  • Science and Technology Studies, especially finance and infrastructure research, legal anthropology, ecology
  • Theories of practice and praxeology

Curriculum Vitae

  • 2020: Humanities International – Prize for the Promotion of Translation of Works in the Humanities for The Connectivity of Things: Network Cultures Since 1832
  • 2018: Academic Councillor for Life at the Media Studies Department, University of Siegen
  • 2017: Future Prize of the Research College of the University of Siegen for Border Objects and Media Research
  • 2012: PhD Die Verbundenheit der Dinge. A Cultural History of Networks and Networks, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Fellowships/guest residencies in Toronto, Berlin, Darmstadt and Zurich

Lectures and publications

  • The Connectivity of Things. Network Cultures Since 1832, Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press, 2022 (Infrastructures, accepted by the MIT Press publishing committee). Revised translation of The Connectivity of Things. Eine Kulturgeschichte der Netze und Netzwerke, Berlin: Kadmos, 2014 (2nd edition 2016; Kaleidogramme, vol. 114).
  • How to Coordinate Digital Accounting? Infrastructuring Payment and Credit with the EUROCARD, 1977-1985. In: Bergermann, Ulrike et al. (eds.): Connect and Divide. The Practice Turn in Media Studies (= 3rd Media Studies Symposium of the DFG). Berlin/Zurich: diaphanes, 2020 (forthcoming).
  • with Tobias Röhl and Ronja Trischler: Materiality of Cooperation. Wiesbaden et al: Springer VS (Media of Cooperation), 2019.
  • Money, Credit, and Digital Payment 1971/2014. From the Credit Card to Apple Pay. In: Administration & Society 50/9 (2018), Special Issue on ICT@Admin, pp. 1259-1279. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095399718794169.
  • with Nadine Taha: Susan Leigh Star. Boundary objects and media research. Bielefeld: transcript (Locating Media | Situated Media, vol. 10), 2017. Zukunftspreis des Forschungskollegs der Universität Siegen 2017.

Dr. Sebastian Gießmann

University Siegen

Fellow at CAIS from April until September 2020