2 Iconomy, Cultural Diversity and Ludic Monetization on the Internet of Things

(Original in Portuguese)

Gilson Schwartz[1]

I – From Theory to Targeting the Iconomic Shift

The theoretical issues related to cultural diversity in the digital era always stem from some established view, a certain Zeitgeist or structural hypothesis about the changes related to the digitization of life. We are continuously connected to social networks that not only reproduce social patterns embedded in people’s behaviour (there is no sense in viewing any technology as existing without being “social”) but also reorganize the world and impose new forms of thinking, behaving and playing on humankind. They are also updating the inherited critique of technical and instrumental rationalities, inviting us to new forms of creative resistance to automation, employment precariousness and alienation by unsustainable consumption, the product of infinite evil and dismal spirits.

Discussing the current bioepistemological shift – which I call “iconic”, as if a new form of being, beyond Being and actors in networks, is on its way to establish an Iconomy – would take more space than we have available here. Yet, such is my objective: digital networks invite us to think differently as well as to think out the difference, the risk of suppressing diversity, and the potential of emancipation into new dimensions of organization and culture.

It is a theoretical and political concern of the highest level, because to say that human beings must think differently does not mean that we need to perform any kind of surgical or pharmaceutical intervention to produce a post-human brain. The brain is the very same that has served us ever since Homo sapiens appeared. Humans may walk, ride horses, in wagons, automobiles, rockets, or planes; however, the brain structure and the cognitive skills are those we have always had.

What changes is the relationship of thinking about thinking itself, that is our capacity to critique and self-critique, to think as an individual and collective subject. This research theme has been gaining strength in universities and independent research groups worldwide. We already talk about “Internet science”, and not just Internet technology anymore. Science has demanded new research procedures since the arrival of the Internet. And, if the practice of science changes, research techniques change; challenges of an epistemic nature appear and reappear. We might even come to the conclusion that the reason why we think itself has changed. I will now quickly go over the characteristics of this transformation of thought, that show why a science of the Internet makes more sense every day.

The first characteristic of Western thinking is the Cartesian motto that sums our society up at the end of the day: “I think; therefore, I am”. This is the basis of modern science as a whole. I refer to the Enlightenment period, in which the insertion of the individual in the world has to do with individualistic thinking. The ego asserts itself with the ability of controlling existence from its own thought. It is a huge change in comparison with previous periods, marked by religious or mythical thoughts. We move on to rational thinking, no longer magical, but instrumental thinking, through which the individual dominates the world. When we talk about the Cartesian diagram, geometry, calculus, we celebrate the individual’s ability to make mental operations called thinking with a view to an end, and existence is translated within the rational relationship between means and ends.

What changes with digital networks, generating both positive and negative effects, is the prevalence of communication in all processes. While the individual subject’s thinking continues as important as it ever was to humankind, while it is still as important as it was for Descartes to state that the basis of our existence is our capacity to think, new metaphors have emerged that project the brain’s anatomy onto supra-individual dimensions. Thus, as the brain makes synapses, not only establishing a connection among neurons, but the neurological network that each of us has inside our body, a propagation of synapses starts happening in the world going beyond the individual body – now there are millions, billions of people connecting themselves. What does this collective and connective thinking mean? Does it constitute a new kind of subject, or does it ask for identities that escape Cartesian subjectivity? This is the first challenge.

It is true that individuals connect to one another, collaborate, have friends, and participate in “social nets”. However, besides random or circumstantial connections, does a structure or an organism stand out? What sort of “thing” is the “network-actor”? And to what extent does his ontology (or “ontopower”) dilute in processes, tracks, folds, trace elements and resistances an authentically diverse, free, and creative culture? Spontaneous demonstrations that today inform digital humanities and cultural studies amount to the practical belief that maybe a collective brain, an intelligence that connects itself, a unit that fulfils itself only through the difference with itself – that, therefore, challenges the classical notions of identity and subjectivity – is being formed within us and in spite of us.

The [id]entity thus emerging is rather abstract but we have been dealing with it, and its nature is dynamic and collective but singularly individual, for it is digital, trackable, and sharable.

This social and technical transformation shakes up Cartesianism as well as our certainty that, from what I think I generate a result that I have control on. The new forms of science-making already reflect the existence of a self-conscious digital superstructure. How does it think? Certainly, we are dealing with communicational thinking (I communicate, therefore, I think) and not existential thinking (I think, therefore I am). If I do not communicate, if I am not connected to a dimension that emerges beyond individual intelligence, I am no longer so powerful.

A second characteristic has been the recent emergence of big data (and the new convergences between information science and digital humanities). It is the output of this gigantic global brain that is ceaselessly producing information.

In other words, it is the set of extremely huge data that, for this reason, requires special tools (metrics and metadata) so that all and any information can be found, analysed, and productively used in a timely manner.

This collective intelligence leaves tracks, traces, memories. Sometimes, they are tracks that the secret service will eventually examine, but in the case of Universities we are not dealing with espionage but research on the future of citizenship. A citizenship that transforms itself into one literally made of knowledge on information clouds.

The patterns that will emerge from there will only be visualized if there is such connection, not only between the digital and the real, but between all the areas of the real with all the areas of the digital mediated by new models of mapping the world, consciousness, and communication itself.

This challenge, holistic in nature, is therefore, hard to implement especially because our universities and research centres are the legacy produced by Cartesianism, that has generated an extraordinary epistemological segmentation.

Each individual asserts him or herself as a powerful subject in the extent that he or she takes ownership of specific knowledge produced in the schools of economics, law, engineering, medicine, and so forth.

It has been immensely difficult to create interdisciplinary universities and programs that unite several universities in consortiums. But it is already happening. Therefore, the way to produce knowledge and share results in science is changing. The very belief in individual rationality is losing strength and increasingly revealing itself as a belief and not a product of reason.

Finally, this big change that is perceived as an emerging Internet science is the overcoming of the positivist, determinist, causal, and mechanical model in favour of a [re]acknowledgment of all that is imaginative, affective, and sentimental. And passion is indissociable from the communication process (love is, too, always [com]passion). The iconic turning point is also part of an affective, post-semiotic turning point.

[Re]acknowledging [com]passion is a paradigm change, since in Cartesianism, in Positivism, and in the determinist and mechanical viewpoint of things, a cause that has been empirically proven is unequivocal. With the networks and this kind of collective communication, the affective dimension gains importance not for the connection engineering per se, but because connectivity generates this new brain, this collective passion.

The Internet does not exist only because we are connected, but because it is an audio-visual, interactive and immersive interface, mobilizing not only the rational side but feelings as well, the sensibility with which we see and listen to ourselves and others (it becomes more difficult to ignore the distant war, the remote genocide, the epidemics and the environmental pollution suffered by other people).

Besides the passage from the controlling subject to a collective connector, besides the overcoming of rationalism and technical effectiveness in favour of an affective and sentimental technology, a third great transformation is occurring which may give meaning to the two former ones: when we talk of the Internet, we talk about connection and interest, but also about icons, objects towards which we sometimes have an almost religious relationship, I would say, in the extreme of sensorial affectivity (everything may well have started with the emoticons ).

It is rather common to see mega-businesses emerge and practically monopolize the market (the social networks market for instance), seeming to have discovered a combination of engineering and magic and producing market leadership phenomena that demonstrate the appeal of technology. Yet its appeal really has nothing to do with magic and enchanted beings, but with the nature of this communication process, which is to integrate the most advanced engineering and iconography into marvels of digital design.

The Internet has a technical dimension, but it also has an audio-visual, iconic dimension. This engineering audio-visual connection is what gives it a new meaning that seems surreal. How can we give meaning to objects, decisions, or our relationships other than through objects that pertain at the same time to advanced technology and advanced affectivity?

II – Iconomy and the new theory of digital value

From these changes, a new Internet Science arises. This new manner of thinking and playing, subject to dialogical critique and self-critique narratives, which we embraced but also against which we hold out, since we need to be seduced to make new measuring and feeling models viable, is what I have been calling “iconomy”.

The word economy comes from the Greek terms oikos (house) and nomos (custom, law), denoting the administration of the house, the home. Domestic economy has always been economists’ favourite metaphor: you shall not spend more than you have; you need to know how to adjust the means to the ends, etc. This is the classical paradigm of the Cartesian equivalence between supply and demand, which leads us to expect or trust in the existence of a balanced price – everything being very objective, mechanical, and determinist.

Iconomy shows us into an unprecedented universe: we are no longer dealing with the rules of “household management” (or business, public accounts, etc.), but with the rules of icon management. The social networks produce reputation, affectivity, dialogs. This must be expressed, represented by icons; starting with an icon such as like, the quickest way to share contents in social networks.

Thus, beyond price or pricing, we are entering a dimension of appreciation. Obviously, there is pricing. In the supply and demand relationship, at some point, the buyer and seller come to an agreement over a price. But on the Internet, in this Iconomy, the nomos is defined by the icon, by something that is intangible, which is a visual, immaterial, real, and symbolic code at the same time.

In brief, we are just in the beginning of a profoundly renewing form of working with dualities that have always tormented the human soul – objective and subjective, individual and collective, symbolic and real, imaginary and factual, effective and affective.

These dualities and antagonist poles start merging and contradiction becomes composition. The main characteristic of this new way of thinking, acting, and measuring – combining the technological with the audio-visual and emotional – is interactivity. With the various levels that are being achieved with new technologies, interactivity is the major characteristic of this cloud – which for now is literally a cloud, something somewhat diffuse. And the main characteristic of interactivity can be summarized in another word: ludicity.

The Iconomy emerges, above all, in the shape of a “ludic age”. Interacting connotes the idea of playing. I summarized this emergence in the title of my book: I play, therefore I learn, as opposed to I think, therefore I am.

The book summarizes what iconomy contributes to this innovating way of thinking, measuring, and feeling. To learn is to permanently renew oneself. This reopens the research, a new reflection, new practices for companies and individuals, for rebuilding the world from a perspective that is not only instrumental but that, as it is eminently communicational and designed by networks, is interactive and immersive and therefore ludic. This is the underlying reason why gamification has become a buzzword, a fashionable word, in the last few years, be it in the educational field, in business management, or in public policies. However, is it just a fad?

Today, it is becoming clear that the Internet is not just an engineering artefact, nor just an instrument to widen the scope of economic, social, and cultural actions. All this, in fact, results from its extraordinary engineering. But what is new is that this iconomy that messes with our way of thinking, measuring, and feeling, looks like a game.

It is certainly not trivial to define what “playing” is. To play is also to experiment, create. If we access the term “gamification” on Wikipedia, we will see that it refers to something quite simple: the application of game dynamics to any other thing that is not strictly a game.

Behind this simple definition there is a lot of polemic, because, after all, what is a game? What is a competition? What is playing?

There are countless ways of approaching the ludic characteristic that is behind what we call gamification. If you go to a snack bar and see a board saying that an employee won some sort of recognition, this is a form of game. Gamification, in this case, means stimulating a competition among people to see who is the best at this or that.

III – Creative Currencies: Monetization and Gamification for the Internet of Things

I do not want to advocate for some alleged moralism against the entertainment industry, and especially, against videogames. This is a segment of the hegemonic creative industrial market that needs no subsidies. The big companies are earning billions, more than the traditional audio-visual industries such as film. But, what about the gamification of education? And the gamification of social relations? What are the new audio-visual frontiers in the internet of things?

Furthermore, game monetization is appearing. Basically, we could conceptualize the game as a monetized social network, which is perhaps the most concise way of defining what game means on the Internet. Of course, Facebook has already got its own form of monetization. How many people have clicked like on my post? This is something that can be measured. When the likes increase, you say, “Wow! A lot of people liked this!” Sometimes, you post something and nobody says anything. “Strange! Nobody liked that!” This is a form of monetization, i.e., of transforming a chain of meaning into a chain of value, from narrative clusters or local, real, and/or virtual creative arrangements.

Monetization is referred to here as the attribution of value or appreciation to something. Not only the currency pricing that we use, but an appreciation, a sign of appreciation. This fantastic synergy between socialization itself and some gamification mechanism that, ultimately, amounts to creating a currency, an index, a representation of what is appreciated, is increasingly more common on social networks.

This can have a price, too. On Facebook and other networks, mainly in the case of games, new currencies are already being used, including virtual currencies within the game itself. This has been happening for quite some time already. More recently, this monetization dimension of networks has become much more apparent with the bitcoin, a currency whose creation and transfer are based on cryptography protocols and independent of any financial institution.

This is a boundary that needs immediate attention, but that is taking a long time to reach the highest levels of our private and public financial institutions. For some time now, I have been insisting on this possibility: the creation of a social game, a game for change, for network monetization, to stimulate the appreciation of culture, education, entrepreneurialism, citizenship, using a monetary indicator that I call “creative currencies”.

The project has already been awarded prizes and selected in the Ministry of Education and the BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social, National Bank for Economic and Social Development) calls for proposals. It focuses on a gamification of financial education, that will teach young people how to deal with valorisation processes and to engage into creative processes, being remunerated with a currency created for this purpose. In this model, cultural, technological, and monetary management challenges have become communication, memory, and identity issues.

What is the “reserve” that could be used for these currencies? One possibility is for the Federal Revenue to use the seizure of illegal goods as reserve for these creative currencies. Part of it is destroyed and the other is auctioned, generating more income for the Federal Revenue itself, while a small part is donated.

Why not increase the “Lion”’s[2] contribution to a positive social impact using part of the seizures as reserve for the currency that will be circulating in the social networks designed for creative projects?

During the Rio+20 conference, this project was highlighted by the UNESCO. It is an ambitious project, slow and complicated to develop. I think that creating a new currency that would involve the Federal Revenue, BNDES and Banco do Brasil is something that would even have to count with the assistance of the presidency of the Republic in order to happen. The mission of a professor or a researcher is to stimulate reflection, but action depends on collective intelligence, too. Maybe it is really a border where it is more necessary: the reinvention of currency and exchange as starting from culture and communication and mediated by digital networks.

The organizations, both private and public, that can afford to make this happen need to face the challenge of integrating themselves collectively into a creative intelligence.

In short, why monetize the network creatively? Can we “play” with the very concept of money? Reinventing money using social networks technology can also be, de facto, a path to reinventing our engagement in the transformation of the world.

After all, money is nothing more than a representation of values. If, besides the money used for pricing, we could invent money that we have an appreciation for, I believe that one would complement the other and society would eventually benefit.

With the creative currencies, the financial system itself can be the protagonist, at the vanguard of the emergence of this new Iconomy ludic order.

IV – Digital Currencies and the Theory of Value: Concepts, Technologies, and Practices

The essential locus of the emergence of the Iconomy is the core phenomenon of monetary creation. However, the object is approached from an interdisciplinary perspective anchored in software engineering, communications, arts, and humanities, mainly because the test bed for issuing and circulating “creative currencies” will be centred on financial innovation and technological entrepreneurialism within creative industries (solidary economy and culture economy), with strong impacts expected on the field of civil rights and the borders of economic citizenship.

What is suggested here is to rethink the theory of value, starting from a historical and epistemological review opening the dialog with economists, managers, and entrepreneurs, as well as accounting and finance auditors, software and telecommunication engineers, scholars of humanities, and the cities that recognize in digital transformation the central challenge of our times.

The debate is, in the first place, interdisciplinary, though it is theoretically followed by empirical research about monetary creation and digital entrepreneurialism, connecting conceptual and model research to the sphere of public policies and technology transfer to private sectors, society, and entrepreneurs, within the scope of a strategic public policy of the Secretaria Municipal de Direitos Humanos e Cidadania de São Paulo (City Office of Human Rights and Citizenship of São Paulo), the “Portal da Juventude” (Youth Portal) (www.portaldajuventude.prefeitura.sp.gov.br), in partnership with the most important eco-financial information agency in the world, Bloomberg, and one of the major global telecommunication infrastructure company, Huawei.

The opening of this theoretical, empirical and technological development research field leads, in parallel with research, to the creation and launching of a Finance and Entrepreneurialism Innovation Laboratory (Laboratório de Inovação em Finanças e Empreendedorismo – LIFE), which will work in a network (as co-laboratory) and benefit from strategic academic partnerships with the University of Paris, University of Warwick, and the international network Games for Change (active in the USA and Europe). The interdisciplinary research, focusing on financial innovation for creative industries entrepreneurialism, will be carried out with the collaboration of a network of professors, researchers, students, and citizens associated to LIFE, within a network coordinated by the research group “Cidade do Conhecimento” (“City of Knowledge”).

The theoretical reflection, associated with technological planning and development and with the critical measurement of results stemming from the viralization of a digital social currency creation and management software, configures the creation of a new concept of liquidity for citizenship, beyond the very liquid modernity identified by Zygmut Bauman (2000). Liquid post-modernity encourages digital convergence between Bauman’s liquidity and Keynes’ pre-digital conceptual liquidity; such convergence is indicated by disciplines that do not usually mix, such as economics and sociology.

Since Stiglitz (2001), it has become pertinent to respect the emergence of a new economic theory paradigm (as also present in his methodologies for research, metrics, technologies and practical applications) centred on information value. An information economy that reveals itself, akin to a space-time relation common to radical Keynesianism and the network theory: here too we are dealing with the formation of expectations with different temporal profiles; however, digital networks widen the potential to imagine possible futures or even to live them in the present time, in the flow of the networks, with their innovative strategies of connection, investment, accumulation, and creative destruction, stressing the institutional and Schumpeterian dimension of innovation and entrepreneurship within the economic but also symbolic and ideological dynamics (what Schumpeter called “vision”, and Keynes himself emphasized as being the weight of dead economists’ sacred memory over businessmen and public men).

Later, in a networked post-industrial economy, Yochai Benkler’s view and its microeconomic, behaviourist, and utopic perspective emerged, emphasizing within this new networked information economy the same epistemological change indicated by Stiglitz, to the point of parodying Adam Smith in The Riches of the Nets (2006). In 2008, what appeared to be the beginning of a new era is marked by the deceleration and worst crisis in capitalist history since 1929.

Attentive to the relationship between expectations, language, and the gold standard crisis, Keynes, almost a century ago, characterized the economic dynamics as a game of expectations, a limitless language or an economy whose borders were set by language, narrative, and expectational conventions (Schwartz 2000).

The linguistic disruption itself resembles a creative destruction process – the connection protocols, the new visibilities, and the emergence of a global “commons” are promises that already threaten the establishment, accustomed as it is to the intermediation rules anterior to the dissemination of digital net infrastructures.

The digital information economy turned even more infinite the horizon of the economy as a language and business communicational platform, production and sharing model. Value chains become more complex and, at the same time, identities, memories and individual and collective projects gain a new effective and affective iconicity, through which opportunities of inclusion, innovation, and institutionalization (or visibility/audience/scale) can be opened.

Unbalances and threats have also widened, creation and destruction cycles seem shorter, without the future seeming to be promising with the exception of an even more radical deepening of some technological trends that got reinforced since the Great War.

The issues of affective, political and institutional order surrounding the social creation of values were equally shaken up after the 2008 collapse: a cycle comparable to the movement that announced the end of the American dream in Seattle a few years before. The scope of the global crisis is such that watchwords of a more radical nature today integrate the mainstream in democratic societies: in the USA, the agenda is to deconstruct the banking system; in the United Kingdom, the Euro-related voluntary disconnection coincides with the growing protection of social aid systems such as the citizenship income.

By tackling these central issues of the present economic, political, and technological debate, we propose to deepen the debate from the viewpoint of economic thinking history as much as that of the necessary approaches and interdisciplinarity with humanities, with all their ideological aspects, as well as a coming together of the general theoretical perspective of the economy and the emergence of a collective scientific agenda encompassing engineering, architecture and urbanism, health and environment, law, economics, accounting and administration, urban and rural development, social and political psychology, among other areas concatenated by the common affectation to the effects of the digital revolution.

In the free software economy, the value chain is different. We go back to reading Marcel Mauss, the anthropological dimensions of exchanges gain visibility; and the movements of solidary, collaborative and open innovation economy alter the sense, density, and sustainability of what we call “market”, now crossed by the currents of information and audio-visual communication networks.

In this context of new icons and widened literacies, monetary creation faces trends of disintermediation and dematerialization of the very notion of value, affected by the intangibility and fugacity of the values formed within networks, the acceleration of expectations by information interfaces in real time, and its rules of access, privacy, and transparency.

Within this technological, social, normative, environmental and cultural space, the last five years have seen the emergence of digital platforms as economic realities that surpass classical dichotomies between market vs. State, public vs. private, individual vs. collective, open vs. closed, effective vs. affective, existence vs. essence (Kenney & Zysman 2015).

This vision of the challenges of the economic theory in the beginning of the 21st century is summarized in the idea of a new theory of value as an icon – the Iconomy.

Experimentally, the relations between economy, technology and communications gain a noteworthy relevance when their object is digital currencies, especially social or complementary currencies.

No object of economy seems to implicate the dimensions of exchange, technology, and culture so reciprocally. When it comes to the emergence and emission of digital currencies in the field of culture itself (as with game and “playable” fantasy worlds currencies), the phenomenon gains even more pertinence and seems to function as a source of inspiration and experimentation for new forms of ludic monetization with affective and effective impacts as powerful as those already verified in the creation, use, and circulation of the more “conventional” money. In principle, an imaginary currency can be the epicentre of a digital platform; anyway, it is just unthinkable for a platform design not to contemplate the economic and symbolic issues associated with the creation of currency, credit, and audience/visibility.

The idea of social or complementary currencies with a “creative” slant has been the object of reflection, prototyping and debate for years in the projects of the City of Knowledge research group (since 2003, at least, when local monetary creation was experimented in a tourist centre of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte, integrating the actions of the project Rede Pipa Sabe (Pipa Knows Network) and the financial support of FINEP (a public Funding Organ for Studies and Projects – NDT), ITI (Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia da Informação, National Institute of Information Technology ), Caixa Econômica Federal (a Federal Bank – NDT) and the Culture and Extension Pro-Rectorate of USP (University of São Paulo).

Since 2007 at least, this reflection has been taking shape and has been linked to extension projects, has gained visibility with awards from the Ministry of Culture, BNDES, and UNESCO, which highlighted the initiative as one of the “+20 Ideas to Rotate the World” at the Rio+20 conference.

As from 2014, the initiative has become the object of theoretical research as part of the Interdisciplinary Program for Graduate Studies of Humanities, Law and Other Legitimacies at the Nucleus for Diversities, Intolerances and Conflicts Studies of the Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (Faculty of Humanities) of the University of São Paulo, in the Doctorate Project of Diego Viana.

Also in 2014, the theoretical and empirical research on technological innovation oriented by the perception of an emergent Iconomy was defined as the structural thematic axle of the Project “World Innovations and Sustainability Helix” (WISH) at the Nucleus for Politics and Technological Management Research (Núcleo de Pesquisa em Política e Gestão Tecnológica PGT), of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of the University of São Paulo (FEAC), with the financial support of the USP Pro-Rectorate for Research.

The project can be simultaneously characterized as scientific research, technological development and innovation (of a technological, social and cultural nature). It has to do with conceptually investigating the new borders of value creation, emphasizing the creative and cultural industries under the impact of new audio-visual technologies of digital information and communication, engaging the university into a more socialized and open, as well as collaborative and transparent, creative process.

The maturation of the theme and a new international research community culminated in the creation of RAMICCCS, in 2015 – Research Association on Monetary Innovation and Community and Complementary Currency Systems (http://ijccr.net/ramics/), associated to the International Journal of Community Currency Research.

Finally, as from 2015, the research group City of Knowledge has taken on the Curatorship of the Portal of Youth at the São Paulo City Office for Human Rights and Citizenship. This project will make it possible, in 2016, to experiment with issuing and circulating social, complementary and creative currencies within cultural production initiatives in the outskirts of São Paulo, which will turn it into an exceptional opportunity to evaluate practically the technologies, methodologies and indicators of impact associated to this research program.

The internationalization of this debate gained notoriety with the expansion of the bitcoin, but also with the dissemination of technological solutions that result in financial disintermediation and innovation in payment means and asset management models. During the last five years, this program has been consistently validated and awarded in selective processes, such as Santander Universities, Researcher Links (FAPESP (Research Support Foundation of the State of São Paulo – NDT) and the British Council), and through my participation as Visiting Researcher at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Warwick. In 2015, its partnership with the University of Paris was consolidated through the excellence laboratory (LabEx) in Cultural Industries and Artistic Creation (Indústrias Culturais e Criação Artística, ICCA), and the creation of a French-Brazilian Professorship at the University of São Paulo.

Whether from the viewpoint of theoretical review in the field of monetary and financial economy under the impact of new digital technologies of information and communication, or as an opportunity for empirical modelling and experimentation, the conditions seem very propitious for an investment concentrated on research, international cooperation, empirical validation, and increase in academic productivity boosted by the “digital currencies” and “theory of value” thematic and its interdisciplinary implications in “smart cities” and in the Internet of Things.

Such investment in a research-action program focused on intelligent, social, and creative currencies has its importance in the economy, finance and business areas, but it can also reach compulsory spheres in view of the ubiquitous, immersive, and gamified digitization such as, human rights, privacy, behavioural finance, social and political psychology, urban digitalization models (smart cities) and, more widely, promote the insertion of universities themselves in the distribution conflict contemporary to platform economies (including on the horizon of education, knowledge and culture markets).

Setting up a LIFE associated to the research group City of Knowledge at USP will be implemented by means of a viral diffusion of a software able to organize the issuing and management of complementary currencies, with a view to induce innovation and entrepreneurialism in cultural industries. The larger objective is to provide the monetary diversity experience in digital culture.

Inasmuch as the community associated to the practical aspects of the research, development and implementation of creative currencies will be consolidated during the project, its activities will be directed to a specific research group, already accredited by USP Pro-Rectorate – the “Iconomy”, by means of transferring the head office of LIFE (as a spin-off of City of Knowledge). The institutional and juridical design of this spin-off is a strategic target of City of Knowledge’s project, Ludic Monetization.

The research, motivation and results disclosure will be anchored in the installation of Bloomberg international agency terminals in the research groups involved, reaching several USP’s units and partners at FEAC (Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Accounting), ECA (School of Communication and Arts), IME (Institute of Mathematics and Statistics), POLI (School of Engineering), FFLCH (Faculty of Humanities), FAU (Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism), EACH (School of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities), ESALQ (School of Agriculture Luiz de Queirós), Faculty of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Law and Innovation Agency.

In each unit the project will count with the support of a Professor, member of LIFE’s Scientific Board, who will act as mentor for the pertinent bibliographic and technological review.


Figure 1: City of Knowledge Youth Portal: Curatorship and Economic Platform for Monetary Diversity in Digital Culture[3]

(Employment, Income, Innovation, Citizenship, Affection, Sustainability in the Digital Socio-Creative Economy)

The Ludic Monetization Project enables the construction, in the next few years, of a basis for the development of a platform economy[4] type incubator stemming from USP’s Innovation Agency, encouraging spin-off projects through the ludic monetization of activities (courses, events, competitions, mobilization) promoted by the research group City of Knowledge and its partners, focused on creative economy and cultural and artistic diversity.


A new economy results from the accumulation of algorithms. What are its mechanisms to generate value, employment, income, capital and expectations? What icons, literacies and competences, as well as infra-structure determine and condition the development of these platforms? What are their local, territorial, regional and global effects?

What rights are created and destroyed? What limits are overcome or replaced from the viewpoint of access to material comfort and sharing of immaterial heritage?

Who are its protagonists within the entrepreneurial, governmental, social and political spheres?

What is the children’s and youth’s insertion as the engines of this digital icon economy? How do new generations perceive themselves? And what social, economic and affective futures are being configured?

What are the ruptures of the current order? What are the opportunities in the face of the evident destructive chaos and global massification of mass culture? How should university and research follow these transformations, benefitting cultural diversity through an interference in the mechanism of value representation itself?

Cultural diversity is inseparable from monetary diversity. At a time when monetary, financial, and currency patterns are in global crisis, it is fundamental to perform a conceptual, technological, and socially innovative shift as academic networks and the business, governmental and civil society sectors come together with the purpose of generating and rebuilding infrastructures, contents, fraternity and diversity.

It is not by chance, therefore, that the project presented above should define as an initial test bed the outskirts of São Paulo, with children and youth as protagonists, mapped out and mobilized by the Youth Portal and coordinated by the City of Knowledge together with the City Office for Human Rights and Citizenship of São Paulo.


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  1. Gilson Schwartz is economist, sociologist, and journalist; Professor with the Department of Film, Radio and TV of the School of Communications and Arts (ECA-USP), and the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program “Diversitas” on human rights and other legitimacies of the Faculty of Humanities (FFLCH-USP), University of São Paulo; Associate researcher at the Research Centre on Technological Policy and Innovation Management (PGT) of the Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting (FEAC-USP); created the research groups “Cidade do Conhecimento” (City of Knowledge) and “Iconomia” (Iconomy); director for Latin-America of “Games for Change” initiative; Researcher with CEST – Study Centre on Society and Technology at the School of Engineering, USP.
  2. As popularly said of income tax collection in Brazil (NDT).
  3. Meaning of the terms used in this figure (NDT):
    Agência de Inovação: Innovation Agency; Cidade do Conhecimento/ Grupo de Pesquisa: City of Knowledge / Research Group; Curadoria: Trusteeship; EACH (School of Arts, Sciences, and Humanities); ECA (School of Communication and Arts); ESALQ (School of Agriculture “Luiz de Queirós) FAU (Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism); FEAC (Faculty of Economics, Business Administration, and Accounting); FFLCH (Faculty of Humanities); ICCA – University of Paris – French-Brazilian Professorship; IME (Institute of Mathematics and Statistics); Infra-Estrutura IoT Huawei: Infra-Structure of the Internet of Things (IoT) Huawei; LIFE: Laboratório de Inovação em Finanças e Empreendimento /Grupo de Pesquisa – Iconomia: Innovation Laboratory for Finances and Entrepreneurialism (LIFE) / Research Group – Iconomy; Monetarização Lúdica: Ludic Monetization; POLI (School of Engineering); Portal de Juventude / Secretaria de Direitos Humanos e Cidadania Prefeitura de São Paulo: Youth Portal / City Office of Human Rights and Citizenship of São Paulo; Projeto CNPq: CNPq (National Board for Scientific and Technological Development) Project; Pró-Reitoria de Pesquisa da USP: USP Research Pro-Rectorate; Redes, Mercados, Comunidades: Nets, Markets, Communities; Terminais Bloomberg: Bloomberg Terminals.
  4. By Platform Economy, it is understood that the tools and models are based on the power of the Internet. These platforms of digital value creation “will frame and channel our social and economic lives” (Kenney & Zysman 2015). “Platforms” are structures (“frameworks”) that allow contributors (users, partners, suppliers) to perform a range of activities, often creating patterns de facto, building entire ecosystems to create and capture value (Kenney & Zysman 2015 and Gawer & Cusumano 2013). The platforms are associated to “network effects”, that is, their value is a function of the audience or the access frequency by users who generate complementary, collaborative, and affective innovations.

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