Wildcat Currency: How the Virtual Money Revolution Is Transforming the Economy by Edward Castronova - review by Martin Vander Weyer

Martin Vander Weyer

Cable Transfers

Wildcat Currency: How the Virtual Money Revolution Is Transforming the Economy

By

Yale University Press 265pp £17.99 order from our bookshop
 

This book is about the virtual or ‘wildcat’ currencies used in online games and payment systems, and how they might one day gain equality with the government-sponsored currencies of the ‘real’ world, or even supersede them. It’s a thesis that will appeal most to those who – like Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications and cognitive science at Indiana University and ‘an expert on the economies of virtual worlds’ – are already convinced that online gaming is at least as worthwhile a way of spending your day as, say, reading books or making things to sell. Those like your reviewer who have not yet made that leap of imagination will find it more problematic or even, I dare say, a touch tiresome. 

Castronova’s argument relies heavily on the proposition that one kind of currency is more like another kind than the reader might previously have supposed, and on the deconstruction of the supposedly intrinsic characteristics of real-world money. In essence, and by universal agreement, money functions as a means of exchange, a

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