Cryptoeconomy of Affect

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* Interview: A Cryptoeconomy of Affect. By y URIAH MARC TODOROFF. The New Inquiry, May 2018


Interview of Erin Manning and Brian Massumi conducted by URIAH MARC TODOROFF.



"WHY would two anti-capitalist philosophers create a cryptocurrency? Erin Manning and Brian Massumi were given a challenge by the Economic Space Agency—a global collective working to create a network of noncapitalist, blockchain-based economies—to reconsider value in financial terms. Dismissing the prevailing free-market libertarian discourse, they identified the radical potential of the blockchain’s ledgering system for creating decentralized organizations built from a network of public, automated contracts. They’re working on reappropriating the technology to invent a cryptoeconomy that can create and sustain what they call “emergent collectivity”—the type of energy palpable in groups learning together, making art together, or building a political movement together.


Named after Guattari’s notion of the three interconnected “ecologies” of the mental, social, and environmental, the Institute’s project is to digitally codify offline qualities and affects so that they can then be tokenized as a unit of the cryptocurrency, and in turn exchanged for fiat money—generating cash from a reading group. Much of the platform has already been conceptualized, but the key obstacle remaining is to invent what they call an affect-o-meter: the specific computational mechanism that can turn a quality that hangs in the air into the binary quantities of machine code. I sat down with them to talk about what they have accomplished so far, and what work remains to be done." (


Strategic Duplicity

Erin Manning:

"It would be very naive of us to think you could just walk out of capitalism. We’re not that naive. Neoliberalism is our natural environment. We therefore operate with what we call strategic duplicity. This involves recognizing what works in the systems we work against. Which means: We don’t just oppose them head on. We work with them, strategically, while nurturing an alien logic that moves in very different directions." (

Creating a Membrane between the Commons and the Market

Brian Massumi:

"What we’re thinking of is making the collaborative process moving through the platform function according to the radically anti-capitalist principles we were just talking about, centering on the collective production of surplus values of life, and separating that from the dominant economy by a membrane. A membrane creates a separation, but at the same time allows for movements across. It has a certain porosity. The idea is that we would find ways, associated with the affect-o-meter we were describing earlier, to register qualitative shifts in the creative process as it moves over its formative thresholds, and moves back and forth between online operations and offline events. What would be registered is the affective intensity of the production of surplus value of life, its ebbs and flows. The membrane would consist in a translation of those qualitative flows into a numerical expression, which would feed into a cryptocurrency. Basically, we’d be mining crypto with collaborative creative energies—monetizing emergent collectivity. The currency would be “backed” by the confidence we could build in our ability to keep the creative process going and spin it off into other projects, as evidenced by the activities of the Three Ecologies Institute as an experiment in alter-education.

On the side of the membrane facing the monetary economy, we would be producing a recognizable, quantifiable movement of value. But the membrane would shelter the creative process going on inside the platform from being colonized by that logic. We’d try to have the best of both worlds. It would be essential that the currency not be just a speculative vehicle that joins the crowd of coins. Our economic space would have to inhabit an ecology of other economic spaces experimenting with adapting blockchain and post-blockchain autonomous organization to cooperative endeavors. The key, once again, is finding workable solutions to the problem of how to use qualitative analysis to register movements of creative intensity—how to coax numbers into an alliance with qualities of experience." (