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The digital divide and futurist imaginings of Zelle-ous resistors

Peluso, Daniela M. (2023) The digital divide and futurist imaginings of Zelle-ous resistors. Social Inclusion, 11 (3). pp. 41-50. ISSN 2183-2803. E-ISSN 2183-2803. (doi:10.17645/si.v11i3.6867) (KAR id:101833)


The ‘digital divide’ is widely acknowledged as exacerbating inequality by leaving some people on the other side of a knowledge chasm without access to appropriate tools for the future and all the opportunities that digital technology promises. Attempts to understand this gap tend to focus on issues of trust, levels of financial education and digital skills, mainly seeking to understand why some individuals and groups – who are mostly assumed to have minimal financial know-how and digital skills - do not trust either online financial institutions or exclusively app-based finance. Considering the large investment in fintech solutions driven by these industries and the practical features designed, in part, to make the user’s life easier and the user experience more intuitive and reassuring, it is significant to note that such queries are inclined to conclude that these untapped users cannot imagine a digital future due to their own lack of digital skills and lack of exposure to tech. This paper suggests that for a portion of this population, many of whom are digital natives, this is not the case. Instead, they are able to invest in understanding and adapting to technology and do so. Yet they are uncomfortable with the instantaneousness of some transactions because they believe that they do not allow for enough time to address a problem or have recourse for anything unforeseeable. Furthermore, their interest in fintech’s inclusive platforms is foreshadowed by their own vivid futurist understandings and imaginations. Indeed, they envision precisely the kind of digital significance that is often assumed that they do not. However, this article argues, that the key difference is that many envision the future as a digital dystopia and are resisting what Lauren Berlant refers to as ‘cruel optimism’. These types of imaginings motivate many to resist the vulnerabilities that they believe can make them overly dependent on technology in ways that they believe can potentially place them at risk. This article focuses on the US multi-bank owned Zelle payment system, and its online and app-based banking features as a case study to illustrate these points. It further argues that the inclusivity that online digital banking platforms aspiringly offer is often viewed by their potential users not as a portal toward equality but rather as ‘a leap of faith’ toward digital dependency and future vulnerability.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.17645/si.v11i3.6867
Uncontrolled keywords: digital divide; financial inclusivity; fintech; future imaginaries; Zelle; cash; peer-to-peer (P2P) payments; trust; dystopia; data privacy; hacking; scams; glitches; cruel optimism
Subjects: A General Works
F History United States, Canada, Latin America
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1 United States local history
H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5351 Business
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Daniela Peluso
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2023 10:14 UTC
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2024 12:17 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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