2016/12/10 09:15 Tim Ingold, “Thoughts on Movement, Growth and and Anthropologically-Sensitive IS/Organization Studies”, IFIP WG8.2

Plenary #ifipwg82 Tim Ingold, Keynote IFIP WG 8.2 Working Conference, Dublin 2016

Donncha KavanaghIntroduction by Donncha Kavanagh, The Centre for Innovation, Technology & Organisation, University College Dublin

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, by David Ing.

Title of conference: Beyond Interpretitivism?

  • People running away from positivism
  • Movement from macro study of science to micro study of science
  • 1979 deep critique of anthropology:  epistemic two-timer, which it gets away with
  • Only one anthropology department in Ireland, and it’s small
  • What is anthropology?  It’s what anthropologists do

Welcoming Tim Ingold, U. Aberdeen

  • If anthropology is what anthropolists do, he’s the epitome
  • Key idea from Tim’s world:  live, it engages with practice, environment, evolution
  • Tim and his wife Anna

Tim Ingold, IFIP WG8.2[Tim Ingold]

[A different talk from the composed publication in the proceedings “Thoughts on Movement, Growth and an Anthropologically-Sensitive IS/Organization Studies: An Imagined Correspondence with Tim Ingold” by Tim Ingold, Lucas Introna, Donncha Kavanagh, Séamas Kelly, Wanda Orlikowski and Susan Scott at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49733-4_2]

This talk has similarities to the Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France lecture in Paris on November 30, “On not knowing and paying attention : how to live in a world of uncertainty”, for which there is an audio recording online.

Honoured by attention to anthropology

Some lines from T.S. Eliot, from The Rock

  • Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?  Where is the knowledge we have lost in information

Wisdom has dissolved into information

  • Could it be that we know too much, or have too much information?

There’s never been a time when we have more information than the present, and so little wisdom

Andrew Greig: sometimes the more you know, the less you see.  What you encounter is your knowledge, not the thing itself

  • Fail to see what is before our eyes
  • See only what needs to be accommodated

Anthropologist:  understand things in their context

  • Then can put them into bed
  • Worst thing:  we completely understand
  • So concerned to understand, we don’t engage or notice them directly

To truly attend to things is to bring them into the present

  • The truth that comes from them

See more, experience more, by knowing less?

  • Is knowing more and more a good thing?

To see more, read or take counsel from the world itself

  • Ethelred the Unready:  didn’t take counsel from counsellors
  • Listen to what the world is telling us
  • Turn towards the world, attend
  • Take what it gives

Refute divisions between data collection and theory building

Science says we should collect data

  • Then cut and run, turn back to it, and then build knowledge
  • Normal science leaves us to turn out backs to the world
  • The way to knowledge is to engage, accepting what the world gives us

Live in a world of uncertainty

  • In a certain world, everything is joined-up, no loose ends
  • Joined-up is the mantra of the bureaucrat

Lines and point, Tim Ingold IFIP WG8.2

Go from point-to-point, but then lost

In a certain world that is joined up, nothing can live or grow

  • Time passes, deviates from course
  • Humans have a habit of following the path, rather than sticking to the road
  • We smell flowers, stop for birds
  • All life happens on A to B, but in the deviations on the way in between
  • Directions orthogonal to direction


  • Imagine banks of river, flowing in between
  • Compare intention to attention

Chopping a log, as comparing to sawing through it:  axe versus saw

  • Cutting along the grain of the log, rather than across it
  • The line is a decision
  • Decision comes from the word “cut” — it’s a longitudinal cut, difference between axe and saw

3 concrete examples

  • Walking
  • Drawing
  • Cello

Walking along, every step

  • You don’t know quite at the moment, where you’re going to place your foot
  • Put pressure than put step
  • Each step is hesitant
  • As the step matures, it becomes something definite to used with the step after that

Pen as drawing, pushing out into the unknown

  • Get a sense, a direction

Cello, has music with notes printed on it with ligatures, don’t play note after note after note

  • Sound is pushing out into something, don’t know exactly

Walking, drawing isn’t connecting dots, it’s improvising a package, not knowing what will transpire

  • All forms of exposure (from Latin)
  • Continually being pulled out of position
  • Not staying in the security of a point
  • Moving along a line, weaving between points

Because it’s a type of exposure, there’s an existential risk

  • Open up to risk and uncertainty

Could tend to go for a walk, play cello, or intend to draw

  • Once on my way, I am my walking, my walking walks me, I’m inside it
  • I’m not a mind outside my body
  • In walking, I carry on in carriage
  • I’m not directing action, but in the midst of it
  • Agency arises a posteriori
  • Not saying I took a step
  • It’s more like:  did I do that?
  • Agency isn’t directing the action, as a sort of question

Intentional model of action, cognitive scientists tend assume that cognitive tends to lead to send plans for action, followed by execution by body

  • Sort out in head, then execute
  • Like a computer printer
  • Mind and cognition leads, the body follows
  • Mind is a master to which the body submits

Want to put that into reverse

Cast off into becoming, then skills and reaction kicks off

  • Mastery and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin
  • That coin is attention
  • In taking a step, submitting self to the world, then the step takes over
  • We start with the mission, as we embark, then the skilled mastery kicks in and takes the action forwards

Lines of life, like growing roots, are always hesitant at the tips

  • Submission and mastery follow
  • Out in front is an aspirant imagination, going forth in a uncertain world
  • Followed by an experience of knowledge and affordances

Imagination:  an awkward word, thinking of representation

  • Conceptualizing something not in our immediate experiment
  • Imagination isn’t an imaging
  • It’s running ahead of the horizon
  • Something that is pulling us forward

We say of things, it appears

  • Supposes it is already there, prior to manifestation in the theatre of consciousness

To imagine is to join upstream, in it’s birth

  • It isn’t there yet
  • You’re there, in the moment

Merleau-Ponty:  I can see people, tables, chairs, in the world

Gibson:  environmental objects, they’re already there

  • But, I can see
  • Blind person that can see gets flooded with light

Merleau-Ponty: the ecstacy of vision

  • They are there in the appearing itself
  • World continually becoming
  • Merleau-Ponty:  painter isn’t trying to represent, but bring out the experience as if opening eyes on the world for the first time

Another word for imagination could be foresight

  • Not bringing forth
  • Anticipation:  always one step ahead of the materials
  • Foresight doesn’t say the thing, it opens up a path
  • Look where you are going, but not to pick and end point
  • Prophecy, not prediction
  • Anticipation allows practitioners to carry on, otherwise they would be stuck

The line that cuts through, longitudinally, is the trace of gesture of a movement, not an intent

  • It breaks a trail
  • Hopes and dreams, not plans and prediction
  • Hopes and dreams, have to catch them, before they’re lost
  • Writers:  characters disappear over horizon before you can catch them
  • Anxious that you’ll lose them before you can write them down
  • Perpetual anxiety
  • Terrific dream, the wake up
  • Baudelaire:  painter who is trying to paint, and the thing that he is trying to catch disappears before he can capture

Architect, writer, are dream catchers

  • Caught between attention ahead, and material drag that holds you back with friction
  • All life is held in this tension
  • Imagination – preception
  • Aspiration – prehension
  • Exposure – attunement
  • The first leads, the second follows

What leads is an imaginary longing that leads up to attention; what follows is a skillfully executed maneuver

  • The Mind of Gesture, Manning
  • The point of inflection:  where submission turns into mastery
  • Where imagination turns into perception
  • The way a curve turns from ascent into descent


Already explained exposure, being pulled out of position

  • From education, Masschelein
  • Education not as educare (fill knowledge into) exucare (to lead out)
  • Education is leading out into the world, not immunizing into the world:  Masschelein

Education of attention, from ecological psychology from James Gibson

  • Puzzled:  both Gibson and Masschelein on education, but saying different things
  • Gibson:  attending to the world, and what the world affords, the world is already there (with invariants) with the perceiver coming in
  • Perceiver is becoming, world is somewhat fixed — an oddity
  • One-sided
  • Gibson, world is there, ready and waiting
  • Masschelein:  the world isn’t there, the world is becoming, not sure what its’ going to be
  • The world is waiting for the perceiver …
  • … or the perceiver waiting for the world
  • Link between perception and action

Masschelein and Gibson are giving points before and after inflection

In the moment, exposing self to the world, and am astonished by it

  • Astonishment isn’t surprise
  • Anticipation and prediction:  if the other side of prediction is the failure of ignorance; …
  • Ignorance rests on presumption that to come into knowledge, things have to be explained to us
  • Pedagogy:  things have to be explained to a child — which reproduces ignorance
  • To come into knowledge, things have to be explained
  • Prediction relies on presumption that things are explicable
  • Hypotheses
  • Ignorance and prediction are two sides of the same coin
  • Rhetoric of knowledge in science
  • Science as record of predictive failures
  • Raised from state of ignorance into enlightment
  • Conjecture, test, hypothesis, new conjecture

For normal science (and what scientists actually do) the way to know the world isn’t to open oneself in the world, but to put into categories

  • Surprised by not astonished that mistakes are found
  • “Not as previously thought” is exciting, making progress
  • Supposed to be surprised, but not astonished
  • World can be held to account
  • History is being made
  • History needs exciting events, then can have science that is progressive

Indigenous people are astonished, but not surprised

  • Openness makes them vulnerable
  • In the west, indigenous are considered to be weak
  • What is perceived by science as weakness is actually strength
  • More attentive to the changes in the environment
  • Openness that makes they vulnerable, allows strength and resilience in ongoing responsiveness

Responsiveness goes along with the movement of things

Correspondence:  two senses

  • One sense in math:  this corresponds to that, put on table and chart — not what I mean
  • Correspondence when people write to each other
  • Conversation when both carrying along, together

Correspondence different from interaction, IFIP WG8.2

Lines of movement, going along together

  • Two friends carrying along together
  • Answering, and answering to

Correspondence is different from interaction

  • Interaction is usually a double-headed arrow
  • A and B as interagency between
  • Correspondence isn’t a betweenness, it’s an alongness
  • Concurrent movement going on in between
  • The flow of the river, going back and forth between the banks

Joining with, rather than joining up

  • Joining up is articulation
  • Have become one of the user and the tools
  • However, experience is anatomical unity falls apart:  hair, rosin, arms, fingers
  • Rather than me an cello being joined up, there’s a correspondence, that is this carrying along, in a relation that is not anatomical
  • Each material is an affect that responds to the other
  • An affective unison, rather than an anatomical connection
  • Implications on the way we think about agency

When go walking, my agency isn’t given in advance, it emerges in the action itself

  • Walking:  was that me?
  • Not agents that are interacting
  • Inside the movement are interagency

Reciprocity of vision:  I can’t see my face, I know I have a face because I have you looking at me

Unlike articulation, correspondence includes innovation

  • Voices in a choir

Walking with a friend

  • When we get into an argument, we stop and turn face to face, and have an interaction
  • Most sociable is walking in same direction, not face to face
  • Walking together is an ethical consideration for responsibility
  • Attending to the other, which is about care

Attention is a stretch fraught with risk

  • Reaching out from what is already is at hand
  • Fragility for an unknown future

To improvise is to join with the world, to join with it

  • Moving from a secure center, along a line

Venturing from home:  this is what thinking is

  • Thinking lies in the extent
  • Overflowing experience edging into form
  • Form not yet into categorization
  • Moving beyond concepts, overflowing categorization
  • Beyond explicable, into what is conceivable
  • Unsettling

Hesitant overflowing out of certainty

Are we prepared to task the risk of life, with frustrations?

  • Or do we take a certainty untending life
  • Do we choose essence or existence?

Is the purpose of education to provide every child with essential humanity, or is the purpose to make possible a beginning to start life and carry on with a different awareness

Contrast between understanding and undercommoning

  • Understanding, some common ground upon which we can place our feet
  • Find common ground, launch
  • Undercommoning:  we don’t at first, have a clear basis from where to stand
  • Experience of getting lost
  • Research of walking in Scottish hills:  you not where you thought you were, come to wrong valley
  • Experience:  ground under feet doesn’t feel so solid
  • Don’t know what putting foot on
  • Common ground of understanding disappears, and no longer feel secure ground

Undercommon is feeling

  • Nature of the commons in debate, not what we all have in common, which sets up interest groups
  • Commons which binds together people who are different, but need a way to put together
  • Undercommoning isn’t finding a baseline, but finding a way forward for people who are different

Erin Manning, The Minor Gesture

  • People who are diagnosed as autistic (versus neurotypical)
  • Autistic as something missing in head, locked up in head
  • But experience of autistics is the opposite, they’re so open, so sensitive to everything going around them, the sure abundance is overwhelming
  • They equivalent of putting hand up against bright day, blinding
  • Autistic:  coping with overstimulation
  • World hasn’t yet settled into categories
  • Everything is a bit fluid
  • Neurotypical slips into that’s a person, that’s a chair
  • Autistic, moment of uncertainty lingers
  • From astonishment, we slide into the unsurprising normality of I see this, I see that
  • Autistic experience is what we all have, but we slide into certainty

There are real problems, and fake problems

  • Fake problems have their solutions within in:  crossword problems, children’s exercises
  • Real problems:  one problem leads to another
  • The path made by walking, is a real problem
  • Path doesn’t have a solution, it leads to another path
  • Life is a problem, it doesn’t have a solution, it carries on

There is real freedom and fake freedom

  • Fake freedom already contains its objective
  • Offers choices, without mechanical predetermination
  • Chess player can move this way or other way; gambler
  • Real freedom has freedom in parts
  • No destination, outcome or prefigured outcome
  • Opens up to new beginnings
  • Jan Masschelein:  school comes from Greek schole, which means free time, meaning undestined time
  • School as a place where you can remove rules and finalities, can take away destinations, allow to move

Freedom to move, freedom to relate to other people

Freedom to correspond, go along with others

  • Not opposed to necessity
  • Freedom and necessity are one and the same thing
  • Attention to the way it comes
  • Necessity from same word as knot

Temporary liberal societies, education promises freedom, but it immunizes us, protects us, so we can remain safe and secure, protected from existential risk of exposure

  • Not knowing and ignorance
  • Certain offered is illusory, as is fake freedom

World is rich with possibilities

  • In a world of light, not knowing is not a form of ignorance, but a form of wisdom, in paying attention to things

Lucas Introna, IFIP WG8.2[Lucas Introna, Lancaster U. Management School discussant]

Be close to mike, session is recorded

  • On Youtube, will find Tim Ingold’s presentations, at least 20
  • First encounter as a Youtube video
  • Plenty of opportunity to go along, be with, correspond with — a generous attitude

Why is Tim’s work important? Point out echoes in other authors.  Practical, what does this mean for us?

Interest because was unsatisfied with attempts to use actor network theory ANT to do something interesting, different

  • Wanted to talk about the world in a different way
  • Reason this is the case:  ANT essentially takes an agency or actor-centered view of the world
  • When we start to look at the world, we survey, see desks, computers; and then we ask how they interact
  • We arrest the world, bring it to a standstill, and then we need interaction to animate them again
  • Seemingly quite nature for us to do
  • We’re hesitant to allow to not identify, not reduce points we connect
  • Actor-centered accounts really just bring different language of what we’ve been saying all along
  • Tim’s work:  the line, and movement of the line
  • Also, importance of language, as a line, not a point
  • Semantics:  Latour said not relations, associations — language takes us, we don’t take language
  • With lines, we can talk about movement, temporality and flow, rather than spatiality and things
  • We can talk about life
  • We couldn’t express it in ways that made sense
  • Beauty of Tim’s work, has clarity:  complex ideas expressed in elegant ways
  • Alongness, temporality and flow, could see subjects different
  • Seeing not what is there, but what is becoming
  • Trying to catch up with it, being alongside it

Haven’t yet adopted the language

  • The beauty is hard to adopt
  • Elegance, beauty, we need to live alongside the language, as we immerse ourselves

Books aren’t written as if they’re the first time, they’re woven


Imagination echoes intuition of Bergson — analysis and intuition

  • We become one, correspond to the world

My walk walking me, Gerrard performativity, we’re both informed by walk and walking

Unsettled thoughts, Heidegger mediative thinking and calculative thinking

  • Openness to be astonished

Uncommoning, Alingus(?), importance of not having something in common

  • We open ourselves up
  • Striking thing:  analysis of Trump election, different communities were only talking to people where they had something in common

Practical level

  • Appreciating not knowing, uncertainty
  • How to enter into not knowing as a concrete practice of not knowing?
  • How to practice alongness, withness?
  • It’s not just ethnography
  • Of course, it’s attending to language
  • Tim is making careful distinctions about words we thought we knew:  perception, appearing — but we clearly made a shortcut that we know
  • How do we practice this?

Doctoral student who has read all of Tim’s books — how do they go about research?

  • Or, how do we unlearn our natural and unsocialized learning?

How do practices of not knowing work in science, where we have to publish, present within genre of science where alongness and withness isn’t comfortable

  • Foucault:  politics of knowledge
  • Governing paradigm wants us to perform in certain ways

Uncharitable reading of Tim’s work might say he doesn’t address power

  • Doesn’t allow us to be along, seekers of wisdom

[Tim Ingold responding]

Anthropology students have been reading phenomenology, then ask how to do field work differently, how to follow this approach, what difference does it make to ethnographic practice?

  • Anthropologists have been resistant to answer
  • One answer:  draw — find other ways to describe
  • We don’t have a good answer
  • How does adopting an approach impact method?
  • Get rid of method
  • How do we do withness or alongsideness?  We’re doing it all of the time in everyday life
  • We say:  we can do what we do what we already do, and call it method!
  • e.g. I have a methodology for getting up in the morning
  • Anthopologists were getting along
  • Methodology, why has it taken such a hold?
  • What do we mean by doing research, besides the everyday practice of everyday life.
  • Critique of methodology is needed

Question:  what do we do, given the power, cloud of prevailing institutions in the state, in big science, in education system, what do we do about it?

  • We know the problem
  • I don’t have the answer
  • A step towards it is articulating the problem, being precise about where it lies, so that that we know the target
  • Don’t target scientists, they’re good people
  • There’s a problem with institutionalization, top-down review of science
  • Same in university and in tools
  • Dominant model is profoundly unsustanable
  • How to move forward is a challenge


Maybe more scope in education that research for these ideas?

Methodology?  Getting away from being actor-centered, flow.  Methodological advice:  we worry about how people related to machines, it’s the people or the thing, Ptomely.  Walking together, instead.  Study on actors:  missed how action flows from one job to the next.  Figure and ground.

IS community, some actor centric, some activity centric, some technology centric, some customer centric.  Your centricity or mine?  How does anthropology deal with centricities?

Seductive talk makes me suspicious.  Much corresponds to Heideggerian philosophies of process.  In talk, some recommendation.  #1 Better for social sciences and humanities, than natural sciences (as natural sciences observe, but then have technique, otherwise things wouldn’t work, they couldn’t just see the flows in life).  Drysophilia fruit flies stretches over generations of scientists, learned in apprenticeship, not lecturing.  Attempts by Habermas to say that social scientists and humanities are different, try to control the world.  #2 Good and evil?  Responsive messes to things that are in the market, to agents that aren’t there.  Carries on.  Visualization.  A market isn’t always good, it has a justification.  Markets can be quite evil.  Good or evil projection, or neutral?

How to enter into not knowing?  Psychology of ignorance.  Not knowing yet.

Relationship between ….


Cause-effect, centricities.  Anything other than matter of taste?

  • Yes, want to start with process philosophy.
  • Want to take movement as a primary effect of life
  • Agency regards what goes on, as an effect
  • If something goes on, there must be an agency behind it
  • Circular
  • Bad old days, things has function:  if it didn’t have function, it doesn’t exist
  • Hard to say you have to take my centrism, and not yours.  I don’t want to do that.
  • Take approach, start movement for existential movement for life
  • Marx:  production more fundamental than consumption, as people produce themselves, can set up objectives
  • Can’t have objectives, aims, motives, unless you first have a living being
  • Life is manifestly a process
  • Of course, room for critique

Am addressing principally social sciences and humanities, but don’t think we should have divisions with natural science

  • One reason for going to anthropology is an opportunity to transcend
  • We all have techniques
  • We’re all technical experts, we have ways of working
  • Method as a way of working, often from apprenticeship
  • Problem when the way of work become a logically articulated set of operational principles, that dehumanizes
  • We can’t speak with our own voices
  • In an empathic community, we can each speak with our own voice
  • How can we bring voice back into academic publication?
  • How can we soften the break between research and poetry

Good and evil, hard.

  • Theologian Henry Nelson Wieman: creative good was the creativity of life, in which we create persons in community
  • Social life
  • Creativity is about growth, bringing life and moving life on
  • If wanted a sense of good, sense of bringing growth
  • e.g. bringing a person into being, having a baby is a good thing
  • It’s not like we haven’t seen a baby before
  • It’s a commitment towards sustainability, keeping life on its own
  • Distinction between things that allow us to keep moving, carrying on, and things that block that
  • Final solutions block things
  • Power is articulated as final solutions are about as evil as you can get
  • We should be committed to sustainability that has a place for everyone
  • Evil puts a blog to that

Sociology of ignorance

Freedom and opacity:  in the middle of thinking about this

  • Standard liberal view of freedom:  choice, but within limits
  • Freedom is in the cracks between the walls
  • If we think of freedom differently, latitude that is allowed to an individual, take away objectives, so can move forward in an exploratory sense, then have the with-me
  • Masschelein:  critical that school is a place where people come together
  • Can’t have people on education by themselves
  • Current mode of downloading isolates

#ifip, #wg8-2

2016/12/09 09:15 Karin Knorr-Cetina, “The Technosphere of Finance: Three Transitions and then What?”, IFIP WG8.2

Plenary #ifipwg82 Karin Knorr-Cetina, Keynote IFIP WG 8.2 Working Conference, Dublin 2016

Seamus Kelly, IFIP WG8.2Introduction by Séamas Kelly, The Centre for Innovation, Technology & Organisation, University College Dublin

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, by David Ing.

Welcoming Karin Knorr-Cetina, U. Chicago, Otto Borchert Distinguished Service Professor, Departments of Sociology and Anthropology

  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Post-social relations, to broaden social inquiry, relations with objects as well as other human beings:  interobjectivity

Karin Knorr-Cetina, IFIP WG8.2[Karin Knorr-Cetina]

Title has changed from “What If the Screens Went Black? The Coming of Software Agents”, published in the proceedings at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49733-4_1

First time to Dublin

  • Home country of Austria

Will talk about work on finance

3 technological transitions in finance:  good this is a working conference, will discuss, they’re not finished

  • Developing a technosphere, looking a performance level, how is technology used
  • 1. A form of temporalization: A new ontology, fluid and liquid
  • 2. From technology to media
  • 3. Scaled up social form with meta-actors

Interest in exchange markets

Concentrations in market:  UK, U.S. Japan

Over the counter market:  huge, foreign exchange between banks

Not regulated much, done in exchanges

Technology is trading screens

  • 1. Streamers 1886-1980s
  • 2. Scopes 1980s
  • 3. Algorithms 2000s

Original stock ticker: cross between printer and telegraph

  • Connected exchanges
  • Not related to foreign exchange, but stock markets
  • Name of security, price change time, transaction time

People then had the market on tape

  • Before calling, wanted to know who was trading what at what price

Transcript from Knorr & Preda 2007, from the days in which ticker tape was still used

  • Saw price differentials

First transition to ticker tape had consequences over 10 to 15 years

  • Beginning regime of attention, so could know what was going on
  • Expanding information boundaries, could see not only what was happening in New York, then Boston, then London — a telegraph
  • Origin of a new community of practice related to ticker tape, today called technical analysts — looking at numbers from tape, and then ordering them differently, e.g. price differentials over time, volumes
  • New social stratification around ticket possession:  in-group tried to prevent out-group from getting ticker tape

Ticker tape created a sequential time

  • Taking manifested in trading in market, temporalization of market

Changed with computer screens, 100 years later

  • Face to screen
  • On screen, more than price
  • Market world on screen:  if it’s not on the screen, it doesn’t exist, e.g. 9/11 was on screen quickly

Scopic media:  screen-based technologies

  • First Reuters Monitor, 1973
  • 1981 action capability, could trade through the screen, didn’t need phone, went live to 145 institutions in 9 countries
  • At 2012:  400,000 Thomson-Reuters terminals; 315,000 Bloomberg terminals world
  • Had put big sheets on floors, with prices written manually

Scoping mechanism:

  • Instant visible making of the market that is reflexive
  • Watch the market on screen, but also trade, which changes what you watch
  • Augments:  offers analysis, information, news about what’s going on, referential whole in a Heideggerian sense, to the audience
  • Audience responds to projected reality on screen, rather the pre-reflected (e.g. phone calls)

Why “media”?

  • Always an audience
  • Can analyze as dramaturgical
  • Analytical staging of the market

Transition to scopes:  from piping to beaming

  • Piping:  social relation based (networks), maintain relationships over the telephone
  • Beaming:  tele-coordination
  • Despite underwater pipes (networking), performance isn’t a network anymore, as everyone sees the same screen
  • Tele-coordination: When you scan scope it, you don’t have to network it!
  • Market always has an audience
  • Neuro-market synchronization

Neuro-physiological level

  • Asked traders how they trade, not getting an answer:  seat of pants, know what to do (which doesn’t explain anything to a social scientists)
  • Social science says something about implicit knowledge, but it’s not science
  • Neuro-physiology not yet a science:  have pre-frontal (explicit, accessible to conscioius); implicit (is skill based, content not verbalizable, inaccessible to conscious awareness)
  • Two performance systems recruit and develop different cognitive circuits
  • Can develop pre-frontal explicit
  • But in market where have to respond in seconds to market changes, rely on implicit so no delays in sequence, but more traders are integrated into the scopic system
  • Implicit cognitive processes, can’t do by thinking, have to act
  • Results in a regime of attention, traders have to watch the market
  • System between trader and screen is false:  implicit processing to the neural level

Master skiers say “You can’t win a thing with thinking”

  • Based on implicit processing
  • Explicit system is capacity limited, processing 4 to 6 variables at the same time
  • Making a serve in tennis takes more than 4 to 6 things
  • Also, it’s sequential

Get a neuro-market synchronization

  • Global
  • Everyone watching the same screen, at an implicit level
  • Traders give indications of that:  don’t know how to trade
  • Ethnography, staying at distance doesn’t work
  • More like a tiger watching a prey, ready to jump
  • Feels like a physical connectedness
  • When the market turns against them, they feel as if they’re sexually violated, e.g. I got shafted, I got hammered
  • Not a psychic level, it’s emotional

Given neuro connection, maximum implicitness has negative aspects:

  • Task subtractions:  doesn’t see the market
  • Implications are subtracted
  • Content subtracted
  • Social-moral subtraction
  • Inability of Wall Street to understand

Second transition:  unified global market, 1980s-2005

  • Interbank trading, complete
  • Streaming market in analytic time
  • Analytic and differential time:  time flow, have to get into this
  • Ontology of the real is slowing
  • Continuation of temporalization in speed:  schedules, regime of attention physiological

Moving from screens to servers watching algorithms

  • Subterranean action of algorithms

Now observe spiking, e.g. NYSE isn’t now dominant — from 2004 80%

Rise of algorithms that trade

  • A major disruption
  • Temporalization of social world, could be at its limits in terms of speed, as at speed of light
  • Vocabulary changes:  low latency, speed trading
  • Also thinking about infrastructure at speed of light
  • Fibre optical cable can go to 2/3 of speed of light, but microwave can get to 99%
  • Microwave connections (New York to L.A.) compared to fibre optic (to Japan) will gain 4 to 5 seconds
  • Described by Michael Lewis in Flash Boys, between Chicago and New York

Change in practice

  • Trading rooms use to be communications rooms (although they were through screen)
  • Constant talking, now not so much
  • Trading rooms are mostly silent
  • Competing on speed, rather than trading strategy
  • South Korea is creating barriers to increase speed further, goes back to trading strategy over speed
  • Humans disappear
  • Proprietary trading farms, as opposed to doing on public trading floor with big banks
  • Firms have become traders
  • Question on integration of non-human actions into the social world
  • Luckmann 20 years ago:  why does the social world always have to be near to human being?  It’s not necessary
  • Are we integrating algorithms into the social world?

Professional changes:

  • Desks become firms
  • Drastically reduced number of skilled traders, rest done by algorithms
  • Influx of quants (math, stats, physics)
  • New educational requirements on remaining human traders (who used to be apprentices in banks for 2 years before becoming assisting traders, now they need a university degree with sophisticated math)


  • Instructions to accomplish a task
  • Also are programs to act:  e.g. learning algorithm might have models implemented in the algorithm
  • Algorithm can then be a trader:  assistant to human traders (in simple transactions)
  • Strategic counterpart into human beings, could become dominant market actor
  • There are firms where only algorithms change
  • May have to reconceptualize markets


  • From the technical literature on what algorithms do
  • Algorithm as unemotional as seen as one of best features
  • Algorithm may be scientific; global
  • Human actors have use discipline to rein in emotions
  • Algorithms are dumb, don’t need discipline
  • Human being self-regulation with moral judgement; software agents regulate via risk assessment
  • Algorithms are fast, unlike human beings

Develops algorithmic culture of time

  • Leads to flash crashes

First flash crash of May 10, 2010 (unresolved today), market crashed

  • Dow down 1000 points before recovering, $1 million value erase
  • All happened within 13 minutes, then recovering in 26 minutes to normal orderly
  • Stop of the market was due to a breakdown of technology:  correct market prices weren’t being displayed, even though trading could happen

Have had many flash crashes:

  • Nobody really loses
  • Rebounds as quick as failing (as the market speaks)
  • Liquidity refreshed
  • October 2016, GBP mysterious crash, no explanation
  • 2010 crash could be explained by aggregate data, done by SEC
  • Nothing economically intersting happens, just have to stick it out
  • If don’t panic, get excess turbulence, and then recovery

Is this an economic ritual?

  • Goffman says rituals are symbolic representations of social order
  • Symbolic representations of social order
  • Flash crash doesn’t cast a shadow
  • This is beyond interpretation

Economic ritualization

  • Market could create synthetic persons, at speed of light
  • Still holds up
  • Crashes don’t bring the market down, crashes increase solidarity with the market

Scaling the market?

  • Crashes could bring in a phenomenological others, encountered as an actor
  • Not like an automatic car (which is more a tool)

Economic ritualization have financial markets emerge from change

Conceptualization:  institutions versus markets, market isn’t a hierarchy, it’s flat social form, no CEO or governance structure

  • Trading use to have an interactional moral level

In addition to infrapersons, have metapersons (an in between category)

  • CEO level is not involved in trading
  • Trading floor not managed from above
  • Traders aren’t watching trades, they’re managing and changing algorithms (at least every 3 months)
  • Traders aren’t called traders any more, meta-person not doing the activity
  • Involved in advanced cognitive:  math skills, combined with engineering skills

If have meta-persons, market is no longer a flat transactional form

  • It has levels

Traders become an epistemic class

  • Beyond knowledge society, based on theoretical knowledge (Daniel Bell)
  • Epistemic class of sophisticated math with agency engineering and money making
  • Used to be acephalous social form without a master, but now masters have matured (and breed)
  • Knowledge society is pushing itself through, not just technical analysts, but watching and changing algorithms


  • Talked about 3 disruptive stages
  • Looked a performative view of technology:  temporalization, mediatization, rescaling of social form
  • Rescaling of social form into two levels:  meso level on market; rise of hybrid epistemic class

Hugh Wilmott, IFIP WG8.2[Comments by Hugh Wilmott]

Screen went black an hour ago, because the talk changed

Conference theme:  shift from what technology means, to socio-technological appendices do

  • Examining in context of financial markets
  • Financial markets have been under-researched, except for people in financial economics
  • Few in organizational studies have researched
  • Some change, due to financial crisis
  • Important, we rely on those markets

Applications of technologies are at the cutting edge

  • Position with socio-technical systems to post-WWII period, could re-engage
  • Think of issues of power and class
  • Coal mining studies of early 1950s
  • Emerging hybrid epistemic class

Pre-reflexive interaction

  • Tends to be lost in second phase, step in scoping phase
  • Informal networks become less significant, relying more and more on data on screen
  • Characterization as network doesn’t work

Implicit processing system

  • Traders like skiing
  • Being a physical activity, like sexual assault when the market turns against the trader
  • Situated learning could be important
  • Embodied awareness present in the practice

Question about algorithms, which has become important to trading practice

  • Can we attribute agency to trading algorithms?
  • Caution against treating algorithms as agents
  • What kind of attributions do traders make about algorithms, and the fantasies they make, leading to performative effects?

Exploration of hybrid people:

  • People who have an understanding of algorithm, and of market
  • Speed was important, now it’s the hybridity, insight into the design of the algorithms
  • Competitive advantage in recruiting and developing people with the hybrid capabilities
  • People who develop and acquire hybrid capabilities can move away from banks, to independence
  • Changes structure of the market

Legal context:

  • Regulation of activities
  • Issues of corporate governance and public accountability
  • Future research agenda on regulatory effects, where regulators are not capable of catching up


Bad day for market analysts.  Philosophical changes.  Are we controlled by algorithms?

Spoke to a metaperson about how to debug algorithms?  They change them all of the time, they don’t have time to really debug them?

Choice of wording to catch phenomena?  What metapersons?

Do algorithms have emotions?  They have rituals?  Flash crashes

Collective agency?

Systems drift?

Flash crashes, no shadow?

[Responses by Karin]

Being controlled by algorithms

  • In some areas, could be worse than in financial markets
  • e.g. what will self-driving cars do to the male ego?
  • Maybe not control, but a shift that could have identity consequences
  • Economists admit it’s an open question
  • Automation could be different from the steam engine
  • If we don’t create new jobs, could create new social problems
  • Consequences are not discussed
  • In financial market, needs to be control of the algorithms
  • Flash crashes don’t give up control, they do suggest excess trading that human beings can’t handle, but the financial system does


  • No time for debugging
  • Answer may be short
  • Firms using algorithms have an interest in debugging, because there could be immediate costs
  • Could be interested in constructing algorithms so that they don’t do too much damage in one go
  • Regulators:  sane, or cognitively captured?
  • Regulating from the outside:  could create more problems
  • Luhmann:  I touch it, but I touch it with a lot of care

10 years of changes in language:

  • Trying to stay with usual languages or professionalization doesn’t capture fantasies
  • After studying physicists and molecular biologists, thought financial markets should be simpler, but it’s not true
  • The epistemology of markets isn’t the same as epistemology of natural sciences
  • Rating agencies and analysts are paid by institutions, which creates contamination:  Chinese walls don’t really work
  • Economics and financial progress works
  • Different language for meta-persons
  • In native languages, spirits are part of the world
  • Polity in tribes that don’t have a governance system
  • A market is supposed to egalitarian, but now has a governance structure
  • Call it a metapersons, not CEOs
  • Can’t use hierarchies and markets
  • Trying to incorporate phenomenology

Do algorithms have emotions?

  • No
  • It’s not the algorithms that have rituals
  • A ritual has solidarity consequences, in the social sciences (Durkheim, Goffman, interaction-ritual-chains)
  • Not really changing, it’s a symbolic consequence
  • Increased solidarity, increased identification
  • Question as sociologist:  do we need to integrate algorithms into our sociological notions?
  • Algorithms bring markets down, but then don’t bring the market down
  • Governments have dignified the algorithms

Collective agency could be a topic of investigation (not done here)

  • They’re going to take our jobs, in professionals areas (law, teaching)
  • Will be a collective effect of algorithms that will affect the social world

Do algorithms shift?

  • There are learning algorithms
  • They learn not by what they’re supposed to learn, they respond to the data
  • A recent development

Flash crashes not financially relevant, but socially relevant

  • Not a real ritual, would be symbolic
  • Market is brought down, not just a symbol
  • Social effects of making algorithms more acceptable

#ifip, #wg8-2