Jonathan’s Card: An Experiment In Digital Currency And Mobile Payments

Jonathan’s Card: An Experiment In Digital Currency And Mobile Payments

Will Stark's experiment demonstrate that mobile photos are another form of digital currency - and that photos can in essence be transactional?

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 9 august 2011

We recently stumbled onto a very interesting experiment by mobile application consultant Jonthan Stark. On his site, Stark essentially invites visitors to buy their next coffee at Starbucks on him, by downloading a photo of his Starbucks card to your mobile phone. What does the experiment aim to observe and learn? According to Stark:

Jonathan’s Card is an experiment in social sharing of physical goods using digital currency on mobile phones. I stumbled on the idea while doing research for a blog post about Broadcasting Mobile Currency.

Based on the similarity to the ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ trays at convenience stores in the US, I’ve adopted a similar ‘get a coffee, give a coffee’ terminology for Jonathan’s Card. As it turns out, this is actually a new take on a wonderful old italian custom called Caffe Pagato, which translates to English as ‘Coffee Paid.’

Stark’s project allows for multiple layers of interaction:

  • Check the balance of his card (need to make sure the balance can currently cover your coffee order) by following @jonathanscard for an update whenever the card balance changes.
  • Generously contribute to the card balance by directly reloading the card on (using the card account number transparently provided by Stark)
  • Publicly sharing your activities with @jonathanscard – Tweeting a photo of what you bought, which Starbucks you’re at, or the receipt for what you ordered
  • Developers are invited to build something on top of the API.

Stark’s project is in no way, shape or form sponsored by or affiliated with Starbucks. The experiment aims to generate insight into human behavior (how many people will buy themselves a coffee on Stark — vs. how many will donate back to the card’s account, and whether photographs can serve as currency in the realm of digital and mobile payments. After all, if a photograph of Stark’s account contains the card account number and associated QR code – why wouldn’t it serve the same function as it would is Stark’s own hand?

We’re extremely curious to follow this project and learn from Stark’s experiment, and also to see if Starbucks has anything to say about it. Lastly, we may be jumping the gun here, but we can’t help but wonder if Stark’s experiment will inspire Instagram (and their community) in how they make the platform transactional.

Jonathan’s Card


Lyft Gives Free Rides To Those Who Have Had Too Much To Drink

Culture Today

Brand Engagement At The Gates Of The World’s Largest Open-Air Gallery

Tiger Beer and a neighborhood-minded nonprofit celebrate and promote New York's creative spirit by beautifying 100 security gates

Automotive Today

Bike-Share Program Helps Students Save Money And Get To Class On Time

Zipcar and Zagster are creating sponsored programs across 500 U.S. college campuses


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Technology Today

How Technology Can Save The World By Saving Time

PSFK attends the Social Good Summit 2016 to see how new tech is changing the world for the better

Advertising Today

Lancôme’s Newest Campaign Stars A Domestic Abuse Survivor

Rosie Batty is the new face of the Love Your Age series, and is using the platform to bring awareness to a prevalent and deadly problem

Related Expert

Emily Pilloton

Social Innovation Pioneer

Travel Today

Marriott’s Gravity Room Installation Gives Travelers A New Perspective

The luxury hotel chain's #MGravityRoom invites visitors to snap and share pictures of its inverted set up

Fitness / Sport Today

Shoe-Worn Device Helps Kids Perfect Their Soccer Kick

A new wearable helps youth players improve their placement skills and technique

Gaming Today

Architecture Firm Turns Their Digital Portfolio Into An 8-Bit Game

Bjarke Ingels Group is exploring the possibilities of user interactivity in web design


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Today

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Syndicated Yesterday

Banned Books Week Urges People To Seek Out Controversial Works

Joining the annual celebration of the right to read, US author Jessica Herthel called for 'more information, more voices' to protect diversity

Augmented & Virtual Reality Yesterday

Outdoor Camp Presented In 360° VR By X Games Gold Medalist

The video features campers riding BMX trails, zip lining through the woods, and performing big-air jumps

Travel Yesterday

Boeing Wants Passengers To Control Their In-Flight Experience Through Their Phones

The airline manufacturer is embracing automation through a new generation of mobile travel apps

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

VR Surgery Videos Offer Interactive Medical Education

Dutch startup MDLinking hopes to globalize communication between students and medical care professionals with virtual reality content

Culture Yesterday

Use Twitter To Learn A New Language

tDict is an app that uses the social media platform to help you search for words in local dialects


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Mobile Yesterday

This Startup Wants To Digitize The Loose Coins In Your Pocket

CoinOut is a new app that lets you save your extra change from cash transactions as electronic funds

Advertising Yesterday

McDonald’s Is Accepting Trash As Currency In Exchange For Burgers

An initiative in Stockholm is trying to keep streets clean while satisfying hunger

Culture Yesterday

Google Is Using Virtual Paper Airplanes To Bring People Closer Together

The tech giant released an app that lets people throw their good wishes out into the world on the International Day of Peace

No search results found.