Last update: 09 September 2016
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Performative Finance

Rituals for transparency in the network economy.


During a one-week period in Venice, a group of students from the Design Interactions department at Royal College of Art were invited to work at the Swiss Pavilion on a project about the Future of Labour. Taking London as a precedent we began a critical investigation into the creation and culture of the City of London Corporation, the small historic business district of the city and the newly fabricated “pop-up” financial centre of Canary Wharf that rose from the abandoned docklands in the late 1980s. Their architecture towers over the city, and their exterior design draws little from local precedents. Financial hubs such as these have been springing up all over the world, mirroring the architecture of other nodes like it over their locations.

Looking at how these industries conduct their business, our project investigates the future role of human interaction and transparency in this connected network economy where decisions made behind closed doors affect everyone’s future.

International Network of Pirate Cities

In the globalized network economy, all communications and business transactions can be made through online networks, therefore business operations can be located anywhere with the right infrastructure, and part of the workforce could potentially conduct their work from anywhere with the same network infrastructure. There is no need for face-to-face communication or direct contact, yet commercial and many other activities continue to be centralised in cities like London - because they serve as nodes for human interaction.

As information increases in complexity, so does the complexity of our discussions. Trust and face-to-face discussions remain important despite the ability for remote meetings. We trust human intuition and body language over cold hard data in these situations where complex ideas must be communicated.

Televised Financial Performances

Setting the stage
The closing of a financial deal is a performance. Specialised ‘Financial Performers’ are employed by organisations and companies in order to produce a performance which appears professional. Highly trained in the art of debate and elocution, thoroughly familiarised with the ways and practices of their chosen discipline, these well-regarded performers who would be otherwise entirely worthy of the big stage lend their oratory skills to governments, businesses, and corporations. In a bid towards transparency, cameras are also installed in boardrooms where financial performers meet in the capital city on behalf of multinational companies and governments. The process of making business agreements is publicly televised on local television networks. Each boardroom is personalised with items to create an awareness of location. The performers enter the room through seperate doors and meet in the middle to begin their financial performance.
Financial performers remain on the move between different nodes to provide services of physical deal closing. Many different itineraries are possible, as they may have to cover many cities in a short time.
Algorithms are used to determine optimum routes for Financial Performers, taking into account not only travel time but relations between all of the client’s network and the potentials of altering those relationship either positively or negatively with a new deal.

The Role of Financial Performances

One of the basic principles of civil law is “pacta sunt servanda”, which is Latin for “agreements must be kept”. Business deals have set rituals with specific purposes - from building trust between the companies to networking for future deals. All these small actions in the performance contribute towards the process of coming to an agreement. Discussions and negotiation usually lead towards agreements being made between two parties. Pacts are made and contracts are then drawn up, to make clear the terms of the agreements, and the expectations of both parties. It is universally known that during a financial performance, performers always exchange gifts.

Gift Ceremony

During a financial performance, performers meet in the middle and exchange gifts. The gift consists of a physical, minature representation of the company’s physical entity - usually its building. It has data storage, and it contains digitally signed contracts in its base. After an agreement has been made and the contracts have been drafted, performers meet at the Validator, a device that compares the two contracts inside the gifts - and checks if the contracts stored are equal. If they are equal, a green light flashes and both performers leave the room with the received gifts. Gifts with contracts are stored in the company’s boardroom and arranged by either importance, net value, or whichever metrics that the company values the most. The boardrooms of companies store a physical representation of their financial topology.
A project by Tim Clark, Henrik Nieratschker, and Debbie Ding.