Brief encounters : Calculation and the interaction order of anonymous electronic markets


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Calculation has been recently discussed in relationship to market transactions as: (1) a set of operations, including classifications and computations, which support decision-making processes by economic actors; (2) action plans or strategies which can be evaluated against efficacy criteria; (3) broader social processes which induce behavioral modifications and transformations along (1) and (2). Calculations would appear as situated plans or strategies, bounded by institutional constraints, and anchored in classifications, computations, and evaluations, strategies which are implemented within trading interactions. Such plans make use of available resources and adapt to constraints, but are prior with respect to live trading interactions. Using a conceptual apparatus anchored in the work of Erving Goffman, I argue that calculation is situational action. Its features are shaped by the interaction order of trading, and it can be conceptualized as emerging from gaming encounters-i.e., competitive displays of the participants' socially relevant attributes. These arguments are supported with empirical data from online, anonymous financial trading. In these markets, gaming encounters make anonymous strangers present in the trader's situation, as a basis for assessing the relevance of displays on the trading screen and for reacting to these displays. At the same time, traders engage in repeated self-displays as a means for defining their own situation and for projecting subsequent action sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-693
Number of pages19
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Issue number5
Early online date25 Jul 2008
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this paper has been supported by a grant from the British Academy. I am very grateful to Karin Knorr Cetina, Donald MacKenzie, Donna Messner, Barbara Grimpe, Stefan Laube, Vanessa Dirksen, Cornelius Schubert, Ingo Schulz Schaeffer, and Bernt Schnettler for their comments. I am also indebted to the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which have provided me with very valuable insights. My greatest debt goes towards the traders who have granted me access to the world of online financial trading.


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