Social Machines: how recent technological advances have aided financialisation

Tiejun Ma, Frank McGroarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, financial markets have been fundamentally transformed by innovations in information technology, in particular with regard to the web, social networks, high-speed computer networks and mobile technologies. We borrow the concept of Social Machines from Web Science as a single concept that captures the essence of all these recent technological changes to argue that the emergence of these Social Machines has aided the transformation of financial markets and society. This study explores the formation of these Social Machines with three sample disruptive technologies – automated/high-frequency trading, social network analytics and smart mobile technology. Through critical reflective analysis of these three case studies, we assess the impact of information technology innovation on financialisation. We adopt three case studies – automated trading; market information extraction using social media technologies; and information diffusion and trader decision-making with mobile technology on financial and real sector changes – which demonstrate the increasing trend of transaction velocity, speculative trading, increased complex information network, accelerated inequality and leverage. Our findings demonstrate that technologically enabled financial Social Machines harness crowd wisdom, engage disparate individual traders to produce more accurate price estimations, and have enhanced decision-making capability. However, these same changes can also have a simultaneously detrimental effect on financial and real sectors, in some situations exacerbating underlying distortions, such as misinformation due to complex information networks, speculative trading behaviour, and higher volatility with transaction velocity. Overall, we conclude that these innovations have transformed the fundamental nature of key aspects of the finance industry and society as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-250
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Information Technology
Issue number3
Early online date6 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


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