Digital Payments: New Relations in Embedded Finance

MPIfG Lecture

  • Date: May 24, 2023
  • Time: 05:30 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Sophie Mützel
  • University of Lucerne, Department of Sociology
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  • Location: Cologne
Digital Payments: New Relations in Embedded Finance

Sophie Mützel shows in her talk how the small act of paying digitally in physical stores shapes new and existing relations between consumers, retailers, financial and non-financial payment providers, marketing agencies, and app providers. For decades, retailers, marketing agencies, and payment providers have been trying to improve their only partial view of customers in physical stores. Mützel suggests that payment apps used at in-store checkouts are fast becoming central devices for gaining insights on offline consumer preferences and behavior similar to those available online. She argues that research on datafication processes must be expanded to focus on these new and changing relations: retailers, banks, payment providers, fintech companies, and payment app users form qualitatively and quantitatively new relations with one another, laying the groundwork for future data monetization and contributing to embedding finance in everyday life. To further zoom in on how such relations develop, Mützel introduces in her talk an analytic model of the process of “relationing,” which shows how data-generating relations and relation-generating data are formed when customers pay digitally in physical stores. Recombining insights from the sociology of valuations, digital data studies, and economic sociology, the talk contributes to analyses of how the digital economy works, with its business model of advertising, consumer loyalty, and user retention, and how this model is expanding into the in-store world.

Recommended reading

Mützel, Sophie (2021). Unlocking the Payment Experience: Future Imaginaries in the Case of Digital Payments. New Media & Society, 23(2), 284–301.

Sophie Mützel is Professor of Sociology, Media and Networks in the Department of Sociology at the University of Lucerne. Her research interests lie in the area of economic sociology, the sociology of culture, computational text analytic methods, the sociology of the digital, social network analysis, and sociological theory. Her recent publications include Making Sense: Markets from Stories in New Breast Cancer Therapeutics (Stanford University Press, 2023) as well as articles in Socius and New Media & Society. Sophie Mützel is currently Principal Investigator of the research project “Digital Payments: Making Payments Personal and Social” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. At the University of Lucerne she leads the MA program “Media and Networks,” is co-initiator of the Computational Social Sciences MA (LuMACCS), and is vice-dean of the University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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