School of Social and Political Science

Donald MacKenzie

Job Title

Professor

Photo
Donald MacKenzie

Room number

6.26

Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

City (Address)

Edinburgh

Country (Address)

UK

Post code (Address)

EH8 9LD

Background

I'm a sociologist of science and technology, and my research aims to throw new light on their role in shaping the modern world. I work on topics such as how financial-market participants use mathematical models, how nuclear weapons systems are designed, and how those involved try to produce high-confidence knowledge of the safety and security of computer systems.  

Currently, I'm researching two topics: automated 'high-frequency trading' or HFT, and AdTech, the technical/economic systems of online advertising. 

My book on HFT, Trading at the Speed of Light: How Ultrafast Algorithms Are Transforming Financial Markets, will be published by Princeton University Press in May: read an early review by Diane Coyle. My previous books include Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (MIT Press, 1990); An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets (MIT Press, 2006); and Chains of Finance: How Investment Management is Shaped (Oxford University Press, 2017), jointly written with Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Philip Grant, Iain Hardie and Ekaterina Svetlova.

Watch Donald talking about trading at Edinburgh's celebrated Library of Mistakes:

 

CV and publications

Full CV and publications list

Current/recent open-access articles and working papers

The War among Algorithms, Donald MacKenzie, Berfrois, April 2021.

Cookies, Pixels and Fingerprints, Donald MacKenzie, April 2021.  Draft article for the London Review of Books.

Comment on coronavirus and social sciences with Koray Caliskan in Eurozine, April 2020. Turkish translation as Virüsler ve insanlar in Gazete Duvar.

Selected earlier open-access articles and working papers

Market Devices and Structural Dependency: The Origins and Development of 'Dark Pools' Donald MacKenzie, May 2019.

Pick a nonce and try a hash [bitcoin mining] Donald MacKenzie, April 2019. Draft article for the London Review of Books Listen to Donald being interviewed by New Money Review about the article.

How Fragile Is Competition in High-Frequency Trading? Donald MacKenzie, March 2019, published on the Tabb Forum.

Counterperformativity, Alice Bamford and Donald MacKenzie, September-October 2018, published in New Left Review. Version en español, Contraperformatividad.

How Algorithms Interact: Goffman's 'Interaction Order in Automated Trading, Donald MacKenzie, June 2018

Material Signals: A Historical Sociology of High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie, May 2018, published in the American Journal of Sociology

'More dumb money than at any point in modern history', Donald MacKenzie, February 2018. Draft article on short selling for the London Review of Books

Aren't They Scared? Donald MacKenzie, January 2018. Draft article on the VIX (Volatility Index) for the London Review of Books

A Material Political Economy: Automated Trading Desk and Price Prediction in High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie, November 2016

Must Do Better, Donald MacKenzie, May 2016. Draft article for the London Review of Books

Dark Markets, Donald MacKenzie, June 2015. Draft article for the London Review of Books

Spoofing, Donald MacKenzie, May 2015. Draft article for the London Review of Books

At Cermak, Donald MacKenzie, December 2014. Draft article for the London Review of Books

Be Grateful for Drizzle, Donald MacKenzie, September 2014. Draft article for the London Review of Books

The Formula That Killed Wall Street: The Gaussian Copula and Modelling Practices in Investment Banking, Donald MacKenzie and Taylor Spears, October 2013

A device for being able to book P&L: The Organizational Embedding of the Gaussian Copula, Donald MacKenzie and Taylor Spears, October 2013

Mechanizing the Merc: The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Rise of High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie Oct 2013

How to Make Banks Less Fragile, Donald MacKenzie, May 2013. Draft article for the London Review of Books.

Drilling Through the Allegheny Mountains: Liquidity, Materiality and High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie et al, January 2012

Chalk: Materials and Concepts in Mathematics Research. Michael J. Barany & Donald MacKenzie, Preprint Sept 2011

The Credit Crisis as a Problem in the Sociology of Knowledge. Donald MacKenzie, American Journal of Sociology, May 2011.

'The Five-Second Pause', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, April 2011.

Knowledge Production in Financial Markets: Credit Default Swaps, the ABX and the Subprime Crisis. Donald MacKenzie, Nov 2010

'Safer than Safe', essay review of Tett, Fool's Gold, for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, June 2009

'Hedge Funds', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, Nov 2008

'Broker's Ear', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, Aug 2008

'The Credit Crisis and the End-of-the-World Trade', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, May 2008

'Making Things the Same', Donald MacKenzie, Feb 2008 (.pdf)

'The Finitist Accountant', David Hatherley, David Leung and Donald MacKenzie, April 2007 (.pdf file)

'Finding the Ratchet: The Political Economy of Carbon Trading', essay for London Review of Books. Donald MacKenzie, March 2007 (.pdf)

'The Material Production of Virtuality: Innovation, Cultural Geography, and Facticity in Derivatives Markets. Donald MacKenzie, December 2006 (.pdf)

'Humming the Wedding March', essay for London Review of Books. Donald MacKenzie, November 2006 (.pdf file)

'Assembling an Economic Actor: The Agencement of a Hedge Fund', Iain Hardie, Donald MacKenzie, May 2006 (.pdf file)

Qualifications

  • BSc (University of Edinburgh)
  • PhD (University of Edinburgh)

Research interests

Research interests

Financial Markets, Sociology of Science and Technology

My research is on the sociology of markets, focusing on online advertising and automated high-frequency trading or HFT. I've worked in the past on topics ranging from the sociology of nuclear weapons systems to the meaning of proof in the context of computer systems critical to safety or security.

Topics interested in supervising

I'm keen to work with PhD students who have innovative project ideas in fields ranging from the sociology of science and technology to economic sociology (especially the social studies of finance, on which several of my current students are working).

If you are interested in being supervised by Donald MacKenzie, please see the links below for more information:

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance

For Edinburgh students I'm teaching. Tuesdays 10am-12 noon in teaching weeks: please email Frances.J.Burgess@ed.ac.uk for a video- or audio-link appointment. Like nearly all my colleagues, I am currently working from home.

Publications by user content

Publication Research Explorer link
MacKenzie D. Cookies, pixels and fingerprints. London Review of Books. 2021 Apr 1;43(7):31-34.
MacKenzie D, Hardie I, Rommerskirchen C, Van der Heide A. Why hasn’t high-frequency trading swept the board? Shares, sovereign bonds and the politics of market structure. Review of International Political Economy. 2020 Mar 30;N/A:1-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2020.1743340
MacKenzie D. Negotiating arithmetic, constructing proof: The sociology of mathematics and information technology. In Mazzotti M, editor, The History of Science. 1 ed. Routledge. 2020
MacKenzie D. Market devices and structural dependency: The origins and development of ‘dark pools’. Finance and Society. 2019 May 9;5(1):1-19. https://doi.org/10.2218/finsoc.v5i1.3015
MacKenzie D. Pick a nonce and try a hash. London Review of Books. 2019 Apr 18;41(8):35-38.
MacKenzie D. How algorithms interact: Goffman's 'interaction order' in automated trading. Theory, Culture & Society. 2019 Mar 9;36(2):39-59. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276419829541
MacKenzie D. Just how fast? Donald MacKenzie on the increasing speed of high-frequency trading. London Review of Books. 2019 Mar 7;41(5):23-24. 9.
MacKenzie D, Bamford A. Counterperformativity. New Left Review. 2018 Nov 12;113:97-121.
MacKenzie D. 'Making', 'taking' and the material political economy of algorithmic trading. Economy and Society. 2018 Nov;47(4):501-523. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085147.2018.1528076
Schyfter Camacho P, MacKenzie D. STS and its challenging obligations: Pablo Schyfter talks with Donald MacKenzie. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society. 2018 Jul 12;4:335-351. https://doi.org/10.17351/ests2018.206
MacKenzie D. Material signals: A historical sociology of high-frequency trading. American Journal of Sociology. 2018 May 31;123(6):1635-1683. https://doi.org/10.1086/697318
MacKenzie D. How to Solve the Puzzle: Donald MacKenzie on Short Selling. London Review of Books. 2018 Apr 5;40(7):11-12.
MacKenzie D. Short Cuts. London Review of Books. 2018 Jan 25;40(2):24.
MacKenzie D. Introduction: Financialising economic activities. In Boussard V, editor, Finance at Work. Routledge. 2017. p. 89-91. (Routledge International Studies in Money and Banking). https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315470290
Arjalies D-L, Grant P, Hardie I, MacKenzie D, Svetlova E. Chains of Finance: How Investment Management is Shaped. 1 ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 206 p. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198802945.001.0001
MacKenzie D, Spears T. Die kognitive Soziologie toxischer Vermogenswerte: The Cognitive Sociology of Toxic Assets. In Diaz-Bone R, Hartz R, editors, Dispositiv und Okonomie: Diskurs- und dispositivanalytische Perspektiven auf Märkte und Organisationen. Springer. 2017. p. 157-178
MacKenzie D. On Invoking "Culture" in the Analysis of Behavior in Financial Markets. In Chemla K, Fox Keller E, editors, Cultures Without Culturalism: The Making of Scientific Knowledge. Duke University Press. 2017. p. 29-48. 1
MacKenzie D. A material political economy: Automated Trading Desk and price prediction in high-frequency trading. Social Studies of Science. 2017 Apr 1;47(2):172-194. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312716676900
MacKenzie D. This Is Not Alchemy. In Senneby G, Einarsson K, editors, The Exquisite Corpse of August Nordenskiöld. Berlin: Sternberg Press. 2017. p. 34-58
MacKenzie D. Capital's Geodesic: Chicago, New Jersey, and the Material Sociology of Speed. In Wajcman J, Dodd N, editors, The Sociology of Speed: Digital, Organizational, and Social Temporalities. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2016. p. 55
MacKenzie D. The credit crisis as a problem in the Sociology of Knowledge. In Ertürk I, Gabor D, editors, The Routledge Companion to Banking Regulation and Reform. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 2016. p. 9 - 54. 1. (Routledge Companions in Business, Management and Accounting).
MacKenzie D. Must Do Better. London Review of Books. 2016 May 5;38(9):29.
MacKenzie D. Donald MacKenzie: a continent. inter-view. Continent. 2016 Apr 13;2016(5.2):20-24.
MacKenzie D, Barany M. A Dusty Discipline. In Pitici M, editor, The Best Writing on Mathematics 2015. 2015 ed. Princeton University Press. 2016. p. 1-6
MacKenzie D. Mechanizing the Merc: The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Rise of High-Frequency Trading. Technology and culture. 2015 Jul;56(3):646. https://doi.org/10.1353/tech.2015.0102
MacKenzie D. Dark Markets. London Review of Books. 2015 Jun 4;37(11):29-32.
MacKenzie D. On 'Spoofing'. London Review of Books. 2015 May 21;37(10):38.
MacKenzie D, Tyc S. Comment: Regulators Should Raise Public Trade Data Standards. Financial Times. 2015 Mar 19.
Spears T, MacKenzie D. The Cognitive Sociology of Toxic Assets. In Balke F, Siegert B, Vogl J, editors, Modelle und Modellierung. 1 ed. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink Verlag. 2015. p. 163-171
MacKenzie D. At Cermak. London Review of Books. 2014 Dec 4;36:25.
Hardie I, MacKenzie D. The lemon-squeezing problem: Analytical and computational limitations in collateralized debt obligation evaluation. Competition and Change. 2014 Oct;18(5):383-401. https://doi.org/10.1179/1024529414Z.00000000067
MacKenzie D. Be Grateful for Drizzle: Donald MacKenzie on high-frequency trading. London Review of Books. 2014 Sep 11;36:27-30.
MacKenzie D. LIBOR. In Thrift N, Tickell A, Woolgar S, Rupp WH, editors, Globalization in Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2014. p. 119-123
MacKenzie D, Spears T. 'The formula that killed Wall Street': The Gaussian copula and modelling practices in investment banking. Social Studies of Science. 2014 Jun 1;44(3):393-417. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312713517157
MacKenzie D, Spears T. ‘A device for being able to book P&L’: The organizational embedding of the Gaussian copula. Social Studies of Science. 2014 Jun 1;44(3):418-440. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312713517158
MacKenzie D, Pardo-Guerra JP. Insurgent capitalism: Island, bricolage and the re-making of finance. Economy and Society. 2014 May;43(2):153-182. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085147.2014.881597
Barany M, MacKenzie D. Chalk: Materials and concepts in mathematics research. In Coopmans C, Vertesi J, Lynch ME, Woolgar S, editors, Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2014. p. 107-130. (Inside Technology). https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262525381.003.0006
Lovell H, MacKenzie D. Allometric equations and timber markets: an important forerunner of REDD+? In Stephan B, Lane R, editors, The Politics of Carbon Markets. Taylor & Francis. 2014. p. 69-90
MacKenzie D. The Magic Lever. London Review of Books. 2013 May 9;35(9):16-19.
Hardie I, MacKenzie D. The Material Sociology of Arbitrage. In Knorr Cetina K, Preda A, editors, The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Finance: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management. Oxford University Press. 2012 https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199590162.013.0011
Lovell H, MacKenzie D. Accounting for Carbon: The Role of Accounting Professional Organisations in Governing Climate Change. In Newell P, Boykoff M, Boyd E, editors, The New Carbon Economy: Constitution, Governance and Contestation. Wiley-Blackwell. 2012. p. 107
MacKenzie D, Beunza D, Millo Y, Pardo-Guerra J-P. Drilling Through the Allegheny Mountains: Liquidity, Materiality and High-Frequency Trading. Journal of Cultural Economy. 2012;5(3):279-296. https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2012.674963
MacKenzie D. Knowledge Production in Financial Markets: Credit Default Swaps, the ABX and the Subprime Crisis. Economy and Society. 2012;41(3):335-359. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085147.2012.661635
Lovell H, MacKenzie D. Accounting for Carbon: The Role of Accounting Professional Organisations in Governing Climate Change. Antipode. 2011 Jun 1;43(3):704-730. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2011.00883.x
MacKenzie D. How to Make Money in Microseconds. London Review of Books. 2011 May 19;33(10):16-18.
MacKenzie D. The Credit Crisis as a Problem in the Sociology of Knowledge. American Journal of Sociology. 2011;116(6):1778-1841. https://doi.org/10.1086/659639
MacKenzie D, Tyc S. Unlocking the Language of Structured Securities. Financial Times. 2010 Aug 19;32.
MacKenzie D. Constructing Carbon Markets: Learning from Experiments in the Technopolitics of Emissions Trading Schemes. In Lakoff A, editor, Disaster and the Politics of Intervention. New York: Columbia University Press. 2010. p. 130-148
MacKenzie D. Beneath all the Toxic Acronyms Lies a Basic Cultural Issue. Financial Times. 2009 Nov 26;36.
MacKenzie D. All Those Arrows. London Review of Books. 2009 Jun 25;31(12):20-22.
MacKenzie D. Making things the same: Gases, Emission Rights and the Politics of Carbon Markets. Accounting, Organizations and Society. 2009 Apr;34(3-4):440-455. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aos.2008.02.004
Hardie I, MacKenzie D. “Assembling an Economic Actor”. In Material Markets: How Economic Agents are Constructed. Oxford University Press. 2009. p. 37-62
Beunza D, Hardie I, MacKenzie D. “The Material Sociology of Arbitrage”. In Material Markets: How Economic Agents are Constructed. Oxford University Press. 2009. p. 85-108
MacKenzie D. “Produire des comptes: Finitisme, technologie et application de la règle,”. Revue d’anthropologie des connaissances . 2009;2009/2:234-258.
Millo Y, MacKenzie D. "The Usefulness of Inaccurate Models: The Emergence of Financial Risk Management,". Accounting, Organizations and Society. 2009;34:638-653.
Millo Y, MacKenzie D. The usefulness of inaccurate models: financial risk management "in the wild". Journal of risk model validation. 2009;3(1):23-49.
MacKenzie D. End-of-the-World Trade. London Review of Books. 2008 May 8;30(9).
MacKenzie D. Material Markets: How Economic Agents are Constructed. Oxford University Press, 2008. 240 p. (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies).
Damro C, Hardie I, MacKenzie D. The EU and Climate Change Policy: Law, Politics and Prominence at Different Levels. Journal of Contemporary European Research. 2008;4(3):179-192.
MacKenzie D. Producing Accounts: Finitism, Technology and Rule-Following. In Mazzotti M, editor, Knowledge as Social Order. Rethinking the Sociology of Barry Barnes. Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate Publishing. 2008. p. 99-118
Hatherly D, Leung D, MacKenzie D. The finitist accountant: Classifications, rules and the construction of profits. In Pinch T, Swedberg R, editors, Living in a Material World: Economic Sociology meets Science and Technology Studies. MIT Press. 2008. p. 131-160
Damro C, MacKenzie D. The European Union and the Politics of Multi-Level Climate Governance. In Compston H, Bailey I, editors, Turning Down the Heat: The Politics of Climate Policy in Affluent Democracies. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 2008. p. 65-84
MacKenzie D. Zero Is a Clenched Fist. London Review of Books. 2007 Nov 1;29(21).
Hardie I, Mackenzie D. Constructing the Market Frame: Distributed Cognition and Distributed Framing in Financial Markets. New Political Economy. 2007 Sep 1;12(3):389-403. https://doi.org/10.1080/13563460701485649
Mackenzie D. The material production of virtuality: innovation, cultural geography and facticity in derivatives markets. Economy and Society. 2007 Aug 1;36(3):355-376. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085140701428332
MacKenzie D. The political economy of carbon trading. London Review of Books. 2007 Apr 5;29(7).
Hardie I, Mackenzie D. Assembling an economic actor: the agencement of a Hedge Fund: Assembling an economic actor. The Sociological Review. 2007 Jan 1;55(1):57-80. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2007.00682.x
MacKenzie D, (ed.), Muniesa F, (ed.), Siu L, (ed.). Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics. Princeton University Press, 2007. 392 p.
MacKenzie D. An Engine, Not A Camera. MIT Press, 2006.
Mackenzie D. Opening the black boxes of global finance. Review of International Political Economy. 2005 Oct 1;12(4):555-576. https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290500240222
Bundy A, (ed.), Atiyah M, (ed.), Macintyre A, (ed.), Mackenzie D, (ed.). The Nature of Mathematical Proof. Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 2005 Oct;363(1835).
MacKenzie D. The Blindfolded Archer. London Review of Books. 2005 Aug 4;27(15).
MacKenzie D. Models and markets. Wilmott. 2005;17.
MacKenzie D. An Equation and its Worlds: Bricolage, Exemplars, Disunity and Performativity in Financial Economics. Social Studies of Science. 2003 Dec;33(6):831-868. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312703336002
MacKenzie D, Millo Y. Constructing a Market, Performing Theory: The Historical Sociology of a Financial Derivatives Exchange. American Journal of Sociology. 2003;109(1):107-145. https://doi.org/10.1086/374404
MacKenzie D, Wajcman J. The Social Shaping of Technology. Oxford University Press, 1999.