The Varieties of Affective Relations in Socio-Technical Collectives: A Study of Automated Trading

Discourses on Algorithmic Trading and High-Frequency Trading very often define these practices as an automatization of trading and thus a replacement of humans through machines. Preliminary results from my fieldwork indicate that, far from side-lining humans and banishing affective elements, fully automatized trading, paradoxically, intensifies complex affective human-machine relations. “Collective hybrids” (Callon/Muniesa), under which automated trading may be classified, integrate human and non-human elements on a multi-frequential scale. My work sheds a light on the intensity of these relations ex negativo – by tracing what happens at the moment of their dissolution. After briefly surveying the entangling frequencies across human senses, material screen- and soundscapes, and algorithmic discrimination, I ana-lyze what happens at the particular instances when these relations, for one reason or another, fail. I show that it is the highly intense affective relations among elements of such dynamic collectives that leave the disentangled elements in states of shock and affective arrest, drifting (algorithms) and traumatized (humans).

Robert Seyfert is a Postdoc-Fellow at the Cluster of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration” at Konstanz University and Visiting Full Professor of Comparative Cultural Sociology at Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. He studied Philosophy, Sociology and Political Science in Dresden and New York and received his doctoral degree in Sociology in 2011 at Konstanz University. His dissertation was published in 2011 as Das Leben der Institutionen with Velbrück. Other publications include: “Beyond Personal Feelings and Collective Emotions: A Theory of Social Affect”, in: Theory, Culture & Society 29/6 (2012), 27-46. Research areas are Social Theory, Cultural Sociology and Sociology of the Financial Markets. His current research includes ethnographical fieldwork in Algorithmic Trading.