MARIJKE RIJSBERMAN

Contributed Articles

Rethinking Financial Literacy with Design Anthropology

by MARIJKE RIJSBERMAN (FAIR Money; Coursera) Marietta is 61 years old. She takes care of her adult son (unemployed) and her daughter-in-law (disabled), both of whom live with her in a simple 3-bedroom house on the wrong side of the freeway. Her rent is sky-high, because in Silicon Valley rents are crazy on both sides of the freeway. Marietta also contributes to her mother’s care. She is trying to keep up payments and insurance on three cars, one of which is currently non-operational, and she has title loans on the other two. And she has a set of payday loans outstanding. Small-dollar subprime loans like the ones Marietta has are marketed only to those who have few choices. Payday loans are meant to tide you over until your next paycheck, so they run at most for a period of two weeks. In California, you can borrow up to $300, but a fee of $45 is immediately withheld, so you end up with $255 in hand. You owe the full $300 in two weeks or less. If you can’t pay it back in full, you “roll it over.” That is, you get a new...

The Calculus of Small Change: An Ethnography of Unlearning

MARIJKE RIJSBERMAN Technological innovation obsolesces not only earlier technologies, but also the knowledge, skills, and expertise of the users of those technologies. Individual obsolescence is generally written off as the cost of participation in a vibrant capitalist economy, a small price to pay and part of the creative destruction that makes the entire system work. This paper takes a closer look at the individual costs of such obsolescence, through an investigation of the particular class of changes that present themselves subsequent to an individual’s adoption decision—updates, upgrades, service packs, redesigns, patches, bug fixes, feature releases, versions, and other putative enhancements crowding into the contemporary technological landscape with increasing frequency. Updates make up a much-neglected but significant proportion of the total number of changes that make their way to those who participate—whether whole-heartedly or with reservations, willingly or as the unsought consequence of their participation in the labor...