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Donald MacKenzie (Edinburgh): “A Material Sociology of Markets: the Case of ‘Futures Lag’ in High-Frequency Trading” (Auguste Comte Memorial Lecture)

23 February 2017, 6:30 pm8:00 pm


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” 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).

SpeakerAn Engine, Not a Camera

Donald MacKenzie is Professor of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of the influential book, An Engine, Not a Camera.



Bryan W. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, LSE



This event is free to attend and does not require registration. Organised in conjunction with LSE’s Department of Sociology




23 February 2017
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Event Category:


Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, and Department of Sociology


Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House
99 Aldwych
London, WC2B 4JF United Kingdom
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