Money's eyes: the visual preparation of financial markets

Pryke, Michael D. (2010). Money's eyes: the visual preparation of financial markets. Economy and Society, 39(4) pp. 427–459.



Participants in today’s financial markets confront a sea of data. Whilst the availability of market data has benefits it also creates problems, notably those relating to questions of meaning, judgment and intervention: how to make sense of these flows – how to see the ‘market’, its futures and thus act pre-emptively. Over more recent years financial organisations have been turning to new technologies of representation, in particular the design and application of visualisation software in an effort to enable better visual imagination of and interaction with markets as they unfold in real-time. ‘What you see is what you risk’ in many respects captures the thinking or at least the desire underlying the employment of the latest visualisation software. The more powerful one’s vision the better able one is to participate in increasingly complex financial markets, at least in theory.

Based on recent interviews with those involved in developing and using the latest visualisation software within some of the key markets of global finance, and developing the influential work of Daniel Beunza and David Stark, and Karin Knorr Cetina, in particular, this paper adopts a cultural economy of finance perspective to examine the implications of these new techniques of representation. The paper argues that the latest visual turn within finance should be afforded a more central position in the study of contemporary financial market practices.

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