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Machines and Markets: The Island Matching Engine and the Inversion of Finance

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This paper examines an important ‘slice’ of the history of today’s fully automated high-frequency trading: the emergence in the 1990s of Island, a new venue for the electronic trading of shares, and the development of its matching engine (a matching engine is the part of an exchange’s computer system that consummates trades). The paper will explore a number of analytical themes, including: • Innovation as locally-situated bricolage, where the local situation included one of the sharpest ever conflicts within U.S. finance. • Island’s matching engine as a machine that compressed time and (subjectively) expanded space. • An actor-network theory ‘inversion’, in which the ‘micro’ became ‘macro’ and vice versa. The paper will be a development of a joint article with Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, which is forthcoming in Economy and Society.

This talk is part of the Department of Geography - main Departmental seminar series series.

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