How is finance different from science?
July 8, 2008
It is no secret to the readers of this blog that the field of the social studies of finance is built on the shoulders of science and technology studies. An intriguing question came up in last week’s Imagining Business workshop — how are the two different?
Almost all studies in SSF look at finance as if it were science. Thus, financial theory is the key driver of modern markets (in Yuval and Donald MacKenzie’s work), market devices are viewed as observation instruments (in Knorr Cetina and Alex Preda’s work), and trading rooms are studied as laboratories (my own work with David Stark). And so on. Indeed, this was the entire premise of the Oxford workshop on visualization: what do we learn about business visualizations from an science and technology perspective?
In a very intriguing presentation, Michael Lynch urged everyone to think different. The science metaphor, he said, is by now established. Let us ask how is business (here, I read “finance”) different from science. Give the STS study of business its own categories and intellectual agenda, so it can “give back” to the study of science. What distinct mechanisms should we focus on? The problem of accountability, Lynch suggested, might be one.
I have one in mind… but at this point I’m curious. What do other readers/ writers of this blog think?