Donald MacKenzie, Professor of Social and Political Science and author of the influential book An Engine, Not a Camera, will give this year’s Auguste Comte Memorial Lecture on 23 February.

It is very tempting to think of today’s financial system as abstract and virtual, to imagine that globalisation has led to a “flat world” and “the end of geography”, and assume that both time and space have shrunk. MacKenzie’s talk will cast doubt on those assumptions by focusing on the physicality of finance.

He will discuss the “high-frequency trading” [HFT] of US shares. HFT is automated, ultra-fast and typically involves very large numbers of trades. His focus will be on how HFT algorithms predict prices, and the main example given will be “futures lead”: algorithms’ use of data from the stock-index futures market to predict movements in the stock market. MacKenzie will show how “futures lead” was created and is held in place by the relationship between US financial regulation and the political system, and also how it takes material form in underground cables, microwave towers, and computer data centres (explaining, for example, why today’s automated trading is sometimes affected when it rains, or during summer sunrise and sunset over the Great Lakes).

This event will take place in the Hong Kong Theatre, 6:30–8pm, is free to attend and does not require registration.

Organised in conjunction with LSE’s Department of Sociology


Further information