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On Ticks and Tapes: Financial Knowledge, Communicative Practices, and the Rise of Financial Information Technologies
Unformatted Document Text:  On Ticks and Tapes 1 On Ticks and Tapes: Financial Knowledge, Communicative Practices, and the Rise of Financial Information Technologies Alex Preda Department of Sociology and History University of Konstanz Submitted to the regular session on Economic Sociology, 2003 ASA Annual Meeting, Atlanta Abstract The present paper shows how the ticker, invented in 1867, changed the cognitive bases of financial markets. I argue that such communications technologies cannot be reduced to a meretransparent medium for the rapid, efficient transmission of information. The socio-cognitivechanges effected by the ticker were much more profound and not limited to just speeding up pricetransmission. The data I use is provided by investors’ manuals, brochures, newspaper articles,reports, stockbrokers’ correspondence, and investors’ diaries. I show how the ticker substituted awhole network of social interactions within which securities prices were previously recorded. Theticker (a) introduced new language and representation modes, which made possible thevisualization of financial transactions as abstract and dislodged from the particular conditions ofthe marketplace; (b) it changed the production and processing of financial charts, leading to theinstitutionalization of a new profession, that of the stock analyst; (c) it required permanentpresence and attention from investors, tying them affectively to market events; (d) it led toorganizational changes on the trading floor and in the broker’s office alike. On these grounds, inthe conclusion I argue that the operational principles of the ticker have been continued anddeveloped by financial computer screens in our days.

Authors: Preda, Alexandru.
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On Ticks and Tapes
1
On Ticks and Tapes: Financial Knowledge, Communicative Practices, and the Rise of
Financial Information Technologies
Alex Preda
Department of Sociology and History
University of Konstanz
Submitted to the regular session on Economic Sociology, 2003 ASA Annual Meeting,
Atlanta
Abstract
The present paper shows how the ticker, invented in 1867, changed the cognitive bases of
financial markets. I argue that such communications technologies cannot be reduced to a mere
transparent medium for the rapid, efficient transmission of information. The socio-cognitive
changes effected by the ticker were much more profound and not limited to just speeding up price
transmission. The data I use is provided by investors’ manuals, brochures, newspaper articles,
reports, stockbrokers’ correspondence, and investors’ diaries. I show how the ticker substituted a
whole network of social interactions within which securities prices were previously recorded. The
ticker (a) introduced new language and representation modes, which made possible the
visualization of financial transactions as abstract and dislodged from the particular conditions of
the marketplace; (b) it changed the production and processing of financial charts, leading to the
institutionalization of a new profession, that of the stock analyst; (c) it required permanent
presence and attention from investors, tying them affectively to market events; (d) it led to
organizational changes on the trading floor and in the broker’s office alike. On these grounds, in
the conclusion I argue that the operational principles of the ticker have been continued and
developed by financial computer screens in our days.


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