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Machinic Interaction: A Sociological Approach

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May 03

Date and time: 3 May 2022, 15:00 – 16:00 CEST (UTC +2)
Speaker: Christian Borch, Copenhagen Business School
Title: Machinic Interaction: A Sociological Approach

Meeting ID: 695 6088 7455
Password: 755440

Watch the recorded presentation:


Picture of Christian BorchAbstract: In some fields today, real action is taking place among machines that interact with one another without direct human involvement. A key illustration of this is the financial markets in which most orders to buy or sell securities are now sent by fully automated algorithms that each observe what other algorithms are doing and respond accordingly (other potential examples include online advert auctions and automated warfare).

Using automated trading as my central reference, this presentation discusses the importance of understanding machinic interaction. I examine how existing sociological approaches to machines (including robots and algorithms) can shed some light on machinic interaction, but also point out that they fail to address the very interaction dimension. Given this, I present an alternative way of theorizing and studying machinic interaction from a sociological point of view.

Bio: Christian Borch, is a professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at Copenhagen Business School. His research focuses on economic sociology and social theory. Borch is particularly interested in algorithmic trading and its consequences for financial markets and has been doing fieldwork (interviews and ethnographic observations) for several years, in part as the PI of the ERC-funded research project “Algorithmic Finance.” This work has sparked an interest in the role of AI and machine learning, where he is particularly concerned with discussions around ML opacity and “Explainable AI” as well as what AI/ML technologies mean for society and sociological theorizing. Another research strand is the crowd and collective behaviour, in particular sociological theorization on this topic. Work on this topic led to his award-winning book, The Politics of Crowds: An Alternative History of Sociology (Cambridge UP, 2012). A more recent book, Social Avalanche: Crowds, Cities and Financial Markets (Cambridge UP, 2020), combines Borch’s interests in financial markets, including algorithmic trading, and crowd and collective behaviour as well as it ties these topics to another long-standing interest of cities and architecture.

Link to the profile of Christian Borch