Algorithmic Economies: Hybrid Computational Infrastructures

Algorithms are increasingly a quintessential part in the functioning of society and the economy at large. Algorithms determine and influence one’s access to credit, healthcare, and employment. Algorithms determine large portions of price movements in currency and commodities markets, and in stock exchanges. Consensus algorithms also summon and incorporate specific forms of social and economic exchange by setting incentive structures and encoding specific distributional outcomes. Algorithms are also increasingly often incorporated into ways of envisioning macroeconomic futures through early warning systems for defaults and reverse stress testing, or as ways of projecting future economic and financial impacts of unknown events such as climate change “green swans”.

Existing scholarship has unveiled the materialities of algorithmic economies and financial practices (Pardo-Guerra 2019) and shown how these materialities produce specific spatial formations (MacKenzie 2021). Research has also illustrated the imaginaries that inhabit and animate the production of these technologies (Preda 2017; Brekke 2020), as well as the flows of capital that make them possible (Zook and Grote 2020). Lastly, the interaction between algorithms has been shown to rework the concepts of agency and subjectivity, as self-reinforcing behaviours and feedback loops between trading algorithms (Borch 2020) echoed older concerns with crowds, frenzies and spectacle in financial speculation (Stäheli 2013; Preda 2009).

This session focuses on the forms of life and the market practices that make algorithms possible, are being prompted and influenced by algorithms, or that are the result of the mobilisation of multiple algorithmic and non-algorithmic processes. Rather than focusing on what happens “after” algorithmic technologies are deployed over “non-” or “pre-algorithmic” or “analogue” practices and relations, this session highlights how algorithms and algorithmic economies are hybrid all the way down, always enmeshed in analogue and digital, human and machinic, material and virtual ensembles. Themes that will be covered include, but are not limited to: