Infrastructures and the making of global markets

How do markets change? Since 2006, I have carried out research on technological innovation in financial markets. My early work focused on a single institution—the London Stock Exchange—in order to understand how technology development transformed market organizations. It looked, in particular, at the history of the LSE’s technical services division, which was responsible for creating most of the trading and information dissemination systems of British stock markets from 1965 to 1990 (for research on this, see here, and here).

My study of the LSE highlighted the importance of exploring the technological infrastructures in financial markets. Specifically, studying how infrastructures were developed in different institutional sites across the world in a relatively disjointed, uncoordinated manner allows constructing an alternative history of financial globalization based on the serendipity and path-dependency of technological innovation rather than on the regulatory politics of nation-states, broad political ideologies, or the economic interests of private agents. Theoretically, this shift offers novel possibilities to sociology by arguing that extant approaches to markets are incomplete because they concentrate on one aspect of the market process—transactions—at the expense of infrastructures. Consideration of infrastructures therefore expands the explanatory scope of sociology by providing an understanding of how market devices are made, deployed, adopted and transformed (a working paper on this is available here; a joint article with Donald MacKenzie on similar issues is available here). It creates, in a sense, a new way of imagining markets and their place in modern societies. Within this research theme, I am currently working on the manuscript for a book called The Orders of Finance.