Author of three collections published by Doire Press, in 2016 - 2018 Susan's poems have appeared, among elsewhere, in: The Cafe Review, Oregan, USA - Gather In, in a Special Irish Edition; Bosom Pals,Ed Marie Cadden (Doire Press, 2017) an anthology entirely in aid of Breast Cancer Research in the National UniveristyHospital, Galway and When They've Grown Another Me in Poetry Ireland Review, Dec 2018. January 2018 has seen her poems Commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Competition.

She has been an invited reader of her poems at local readings in Galway, Cork and Dublin and at festivals, including the Belfast Book Festival, Cuirt International Festival of Literature and Clifden Arts Festival. Her poems have been read on radio.

Susan completed her degree in social science and qualified as a professional social worker in Trinity College, Dublin 1975. She was a psychotherapist, trainer, facilitator and occasional consultant to organisations for over thirty years until her retirement in 2012. Drawing together her writing with her earlier skills she has written interviews and facilitated conversations mediated by poetry. She continues to work on a manuscript relating the story of starting out in poetry and a mid-life move West along with occasional other creative non-fiction pieces.

Her workshop Having a New Conversation: About Dreaming was listed on the The Cuirt International Festival of Literature Programme (2015) and she facilitates similar workshops on a variety of themes, discussed through the medium of poetry, regularly and occasionally in local community settings.

While a founding editor of Skylight 47 Susan interviewed: then Ireland Professor of Poetry, Harry Clifton; Kay Ryan, former US Poet Laureate invited to Ireland by Dromineer Literature Festival and Dani Gill who talks about curating The Cuirt International Literature Festival. Her most recent interview, of Maeve O'Sullivan, appears in The Honest Ulsterman February, 2018.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

How is Money, Money? Bitcoin and Other Currency Questions.

I was on holiday in the 1970s, on the Ring of Kerry, when the recently graduated husband of my friend from earlier days, shocked me into thinking differently about my bank account, then happily in credit despite its low value. I was reminded of this, on Monday 18th May, at the UCD workshop on Gaming Money.

‘I threatened to move my loan to another bank,’ he said. Far from feeling himself at the mercy of his bank because of the significant loan he had had to take out to equip his dental surgery he realised that the interest he would be paying on the loan for a long time to come made him a valuable customer. It was the first time I realised that my careful ‘staying in the black’ strategy was only that and not necessarily the best one. Credit is valuable. A credit history can be valuable too, if you want to take out loans in future. Banks sell loans to us and to each other and in the process create more money. Contrary to what is often thought to be the case, most money nowadays is created by commercial banks rather than Central banks.

The ‘nice’ history frequently taught in College courses on Economics describing the humble beginnings of money as token object used as substitutes to barter, is only one way of looking at the money story. Another begins, by seeing money as credit – debt. As money becomes increasingly complex exploring the stories and histories that best describe how it works may be the most realistic way to understand it.

How is money, money? No longer backed by gold (Nixon fully and finally removed it from the Gold Standard in 1971), with only a fraction of the value of credit given, or ‘money’, backed by reserves of savings it is no longer accurate – if it really ever was – to think about money as a thing. All of this was the starting point for ‘rules of currencies, and how they are and could be twisted by digital currencies’. The Workshop was part of the UCD Centre for Innovation Technology  and Organisation’s (CITO) research on coding value. The invited speaker, Professor Ole Bjerg from the Copenhagen Business School, explored the question, ‘How is Bitcoin Money? He finds the question ‘How is money?’ more effective than ‘What is money?’.

Bitcoin is growing in significance. It is the best known of digital currencies using block-chain coding – a kind of linked computer coding that is considered to be particularly secure. The European Union takes it seriously enough to have brought out a report last year advising Central Banks as to important considerations to bear in mind when considering it.

Author of Making Money, Bjerg employs a model from Lacanian Analysis to propose three overlapping circles one of which he calls ‘Real’, placing within it an image of a house - but it could either, arguably, be a block of gold bullion. The second one he labels, ‘Symbolic’ and places within it a hundred euro note. That note, or any such, is backed by Nation States and has ‘sovereign power behind it.’ In the third circle, titled ‘Imaginative’ he puts a Visa card. In this circle money is credit. ‘The banks owe us a lot of money and that is what we use as money’. These overlapping circles give the fuller picture of how money is.

Professor Donncha Kavanagh – at UCD, proposes a further circle he labels ‘Shambolic’ to include  ‘excess’ – the value added by leveraged derivatives and more. Kavanagh considers stories and mythologies useful aids to better understand business: his paper, with Majella O’Leary (2004), considers heroic leadership styles within business organisations in the light of Irish Legends -The Tain and Chu Chulainn. Think of the myths about alchemy, the eternal search to turn base metal into gold – powerfully symbolic in our collective imagination.

Bjorg points out that Bitcoin, although it can’t be held in the hand, has similar characteristics to gold in that its story includes ‘mining’. Would be miners have to spend considerable time on a computer bank on which they have to rent time on very expensive powerful computers, or pool resources with lots of other miners if they want to get themselves Bitcoins. Most will, instead buy them from those who have already done this.

A member of the audience high-lighted the significance of this difference: the distributed power is in the hands of the miners - and much is made of this de-centralised, democratised, non-State power  (‘Symbolic circle’above) backing the digital currency - and not with the majority of holders of Bitcoin who are more likely to have bought or exchanged the ‘coins’.

The second guest speaker was Nigel Dodd, who talked about ‘Origins and Utopias of Monies’. He is a sociology professor from the London School of Economics who has made the sociology of money the focus of a long career. He talked about local currencies, such as the Brixton pound in England: they definitely add value to local economies; it is best argued that they add resilience to the greater picture by being currencies within the framework of other currencies.

The workshop suggests that so far the most valuable aspect of digital and other forms of currency may be the way they force and assist us to think further about what and how money is.

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