The Visibility of Digital Money: A Video Study of Mobile Payments Using WeChat Pay

Christian Greiffenhagen, Rongyu Li, Nick Llewellyn

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article analyses situated uses of digital payment platforms, contributing to the sociology of money, and digital sociology. Our data are video recordings of 256 small-scale transactions, gathered from across four Chinese cities, at grocery stores, supermarkets, street markets, restaurants, and cafes. Our focus is the visibility of money in particular circumstances associated with some WeChat payments. In these cases, payment is made visible via a confirmation screen only seen by the customer. We argue that payment applications provide a good empirical site for understanding how digital media reconfigure ‘the social’ by shaping how monetary information is seen and heard. Rather than eliminating trust, reducing transactions to impersonal semi-automated affairs, we show how mobile payments generate new and complex patterns of economic action. A nuanced language game is described that requires sellers to trust customers are acting in good faith. We show how ‘the social’ is imprinted on this contemporary monetary medium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-515
Number of pages23
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • conversation analysis
  • digital sociology
  • ethnomethodology
  • mobile payment
  • social meanings of money
  • sociology of money
  • video
  • WeChat Pay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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