Rachel O’Dwyer – Tokens: The Future of Money in the Age of the Platform


Verso, ISBN 978-1839768347, English, 320 pages, 2023, UK

As something made up of an infinite number of facets, money is one of the last analogue concepts to transition into a purely digital dimension. This transition is one of the most crucial, as it can enable or prevent very different economies – with all the values and social consequences that this entails. In this book, the McLuhanesque concept that money is media is comprehensively and appropriately articulated through the core element that supersedes transactions from classical currencies: the token, which has also tested the ability of online platforms to create digital quantifiable value that can be traded. O’Dwyer is generous with examples and meaningful references and comprehensively contextualises both the social potential and the myriad ethical ambiguities (traceability, programmability, not being constrained by borders, etc.) that could make it an instrument of control. An early article of hers on tokens and art was part of Neural #60: Blockchain. The Trust Catalyst, which she co-edited, and, in the last three chapters here, has thoroughly and critically elaborated on, providing us with some emblematic cases. She debunks the hype with impressive research, often talking directly to key people. This is an invaluable book that is timely, a pleasure to read, politically engaging, and incredibly informative on so many levels.