Industry Analysts & the Labour of Comparison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this paper we investigate the shaping and effects of a simple industry analysis tool – the Magic Quadrant – so as to demonstrate it has virtues not readily appreciated by social scientists interested in the relationship between technology and markets, objects and organisation. These are its role in facilitating ‘comparison’ between vendors in the market for information and communication technologies (ICTs). Produced by one of the most well known
industry analysis organisations it attempts to position and rank ICT vendors. However the tool divides opinion concerning its status and accuracy: it is seen to be highly influential in some quarters and extremely problematic by others. By analysing how its authors go about producing Magic Quadrants, and then with how they attempt to create the world the tool points to, a form of work we describe as the labour of comparison, we participate in the recent
upsurge in interest by sociologists in how theories and objects ‘perform’ economic markets. In this respect we show how the Magic Quadrant is not a simple description of the ICT marketplace but one that interacts with and changes its object of study. Our principal contention is that whilst the Magic Quadrant might have largely be seen to be problematic this view is becoming less common. Through a series of interactions it has itself altered its domain
of study such that it is now seen to be a more ‘successful’ description of the ICT marketplace.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCalculating the Social
EditorsV. Higgins, S. Kitto, W. Larner
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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