Ambiguous Numbers: Trading Technologies and Interpretation in Financial Markets

Zaloom, Caitlin
American Ethnologist

Financial markets and information technologies are key issues for contemporary social theory and the anthropology of globalization. Drawing on fieldwork in Chicago and London, I examine the interplay between processes of technological rationalization and the situated actions of traders in two financial futures markets-one that operates on open-outcry pit technology and the other process online. Both technologies represent the market in numbers. Traders use these symbols to read and interpret the market. Yet each technology configures numbers differently. The technologies influence traders' practices by shaping this basic unit of financial knowledge.