Automating Finance tells the story of how stock markets moved trading off the floors of centuries-old exchanges and onto digital systems distributed across the world. Through a skillful combination of interviews and research in historical archives, this book explores how small groups of technical experts–‘the engineers’–reinvented market organizations by producing devices that upended established forms of stock and commodities trading.
This book makes three key contributions.
First, it presents a unique account of how technologies were developed within stock exchanges in the context of intense organizational and national political struggles about the nature and future of finance. By focusing on the computer and telecommunications engineers responsible for developing and propagating technologies for stock markets, the book makes a valuable contribution to existing histories of finance, banking, and technology, highlighting the role of these otherwise invisible agents in their institution’s change.
Secondly, Automating Finance stresses the importance of thinking about marketplaces as complex organizations rather than flat systems that simply facilitate exchange. Contrary to the existing metaphors of markets, the book shows the symbiotic relations between technical bureaucracies, organizational units, experts, and workers in making stock trading possible.
“Automation was not simply a formatting of relations into machines, but rather, a piecemeal, contradictory, slapping together of systems—that made new sociotechnical relations along the way”.
Thirdly, this book makes a bold call for reconsidering markets as dense communities of exchange. Following insights from classical sociologists and anthropologists, this book approaches markets through the socially denser and culturally charged metaphor of kinship to make sense of the patterns, techniques, devices, and forms of work that are necessary for maintaining exchange. Automating Finance is a manifesto on how markets can be tamed in the service of making better, more collaborative communities for the future.