Cooper Technician Launches App for Gift Cards Using Encrypted Tech
POSTED ON: September 28, 2022
In August, Adelya Latifulina, an adjunct instructor and senior academic support technician in the architecture lab, launched a demo of a gift-card web app that she and her partner, Alexander Mozeak, have been developing for the last two years. Latifulina, who has worked at The Cooper Union since 2018, is the latest example of a Cooper technician whose personal practice and projects show the great breadth of interest and knowledge among the school’s talented lab and studio techs.
“Our intention is to facilitate sharing, philanthropy, and generosity while participating in the creation of alternative web monetization methods that promote Internet equity,” Latifulina says.
The app, called Gib, comes out of Latifulina and Mozeak’s research and development firm, A* Digital, which they started in 2018. The two hit on the idea of an online gift card, one that would let people stream small amounts of money with greater anonymity than online payment apps currently offer. Current online monetization models include subscriptions, ads, or selling user data, all of which collect a person’s information. But Gib is built on an open protocol suite called the Interledger Protocol (ILP) that lets payment stream between nodes anonymously. ILP’s grew out of the cryptocurrency realm. Blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies, is simply a record that, to a high degree of mathematically certain, ensures authenticity. ILP’s ensure a secure method for transferring sums from one point to another. The Interledger Protol is an open-protocol suite inspired by Internet architecture, that allows for communication between ledgers on the blockchain and beyond.
For funding, the pair looked to Grant for the Web (GftW), a part of the Interledger Foundation, which acts as steward of the ILP technology. According to Latifulina, GftW funds “proposals aimed at increasing awareness and utilization of the ILP.” Along with Mozilla and Creative Commons, GftW is funded by Coil. With approximately $100 million in grant money, GftW, which was founded in 2020, uses three-tier funding system. That first year, A* received a mid-tier grant of $50,000. In 2021, they submitted another proposal to build the demo, for which GftW awarded them $90,000 for a flagship grant.
Latifulina, who studied both art and mathematics at Hunter College, says, “For me math and art are similar because they’re both abstract and most useful when applied.” She points out that Marshall McLuhan’s famed axiom has proven to be remarkably prescient in the age of virtual communication. “For digital media, the media really is the message.” That is a guiding philosophy behind the Gib app, which offers recipients funds for making whatever online purchase they like while assuring their anonymity—in other words, a secure medium for the “message” of a monetary gift.