iSchool Directory


  • Information Systems Development
  • History of Money, Banking, and Payments
  • Social Informatics


David Stearns teaches courses on web development and the intellectual foundations of informatics. He comes to the iSchool from the software industry, which he has worked in since 1991. He started his software career with Microsoft, working as a developer in the IT group, and then as a program manager on Visual Basic, Excel, and the Office Web Components. He then went on to work as a developer and architect for several smaller companies including Televisual Data in Scotland (now part of Miles 33), LabKey Software at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, and most recently the startup company 3Meters. He took a break from software in the early 2000s to study the technology and society relationship, culminating in a PhD in Science and Technology Studies under Donald MacKenzie at the University of Edinburgh. His primary area of research is money and payment systems, especially those utilizing payment cards and mobile devices.


  • Ph D, Science and Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh, 2008
  • BBA, Business, Information Systems, Pacific Lutheran University, 1991


  • TEACH Award - Information School, 2016-2016
  • Nominated for UW Distinguished Teaching Award - UW Center for Teaching and Learning, 2015-2015


  • Society for the History of Technology

Publications and Contributions


  • The Much-Maligned Magstripe (2014)
    Money as Communication: Technology, Culture, and Economic Practice, Annenberg Research Network on International Communication (ARNIC), University of Southern California - Los Angeles, CA
  • The Origins of the "Cashless Society" Vision (2014)
    Digital Cash: The Past and Future of Electronic Payment, UCLA - Los Angeles, CA
  • Building VISA: Origins of a Worldwide Electronic Payment System (2013)
    Federal Reserve Payment Systems Analyst's Meeting - Atlanta, GA
  • What the History of VISA Can Teach Us About the Future of Money (2013)
    Payment Technologies: Past, Present and Future, UC Irvine School of Informatics - Irvine, CA
  • Think of it as Money: VISA and the Cashless Society (2012)
    University of Washington STS Colloquium - Seattle, WA
  • Conflicting Dreams of a Cashless Society: VISA?s Entr?e and Electronic Funds Transfer (2010)
    Society for the History of Technology Annual Meeting - Tacoma, WA
  • Networks, Boundaries, Gateways: The VISA Payment System as a Source of Industry Change (2008)
    Business History Conference - Sacramento, CA
  • In Plastic We Trust: Dependability and the VISA Payment System (2006)
    UK Dependability Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (DIRC) Conference - Newcastle, England, United Kingdom