[SIGCIS-Members] Reply to an odd tweet

Martha Poon martha.poon at gmail.com
Tue Apr 5 14:17:35 PDT 2016


Last weekend at the Business History Conference, an odd tweet came off the
SHOT-SIGCIS handle: *#**bhc2016*
<https://twitter.com/hashtag/bhc2016?src=hash>* Speaker from **@*
*datasociety* <https://twitter.com/datasociety>* loves history of comp.
literature, but sees nothing in it to explain big data or social networking

What gives computer historians? If someone actually said something so silly
at a conference, would it really be worth tweeting?! And why direct the
message @ the speaker’s employer??

Let me take this opportunity to introduce myself to the list: My name is
Martha Poon. In my research, I track how changes in economic thinking,
documented by Philip Mirowski in his book *Machine Dreams *(2002), have
been implemented, through networked information systems, in financial
markets. I’m trying to draw a link between networked computing and today’s
debt-driven capital markets.

My key piece of empirical work showed how automation of mortgage
underwriting in the 1990s allowed the shadow banking sector to fund US
subprime loans:

But I published my very first article in an edited volume through
SIGCIS (*Technological
Innovation in Retail Finance*, 2010) when Bernardo Batiz-Lazo kindly
invited me to participate in this working group:

At the BHC in Portland, someone asked why I hadn't mentioned the history of
computing. In the context of my paper on 19th Century life insurance
markets (*Big Data and the Growing Power of Corporate Capitalism*, I’ll
attach it), on a panel that paid tribute to *The Age of Fracture* (2012), I
quickly replied that computer history and Internet studies were not [as]
well equipped [as business historians] to tackle the question of financial
value. I would have welcomed the opportunity to converse further with
SICGIS members, but nobody from the organization spoke to me after the
session. Just this Dadaist tweet addressed to Data & Society’s
communication’s team back in New York…!

I’m looking forward to attending SHOT and meeting the network properly. In
the meantime, should list-members run into me elsewhere in the world,
please, come talk to me! I juggle a number of disciplinary interests but I
have long been a great admirer of computer history. Those of you in the New
York area will find me here, next week, at Laine Nooney’s *Mistakes Were

With warm wishes,


Martha Poon|martha at datasociety.net|Research Fellow | Data & Society
Research Institute| www.datasociety.net
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