Skip to main content

Telfer Research Seminar Series - Tom Lawrence Happier Wealthier

Enveloping Disruptive Algorithms: Custodial Work in Response to the Rise of High-Frequency Trading

Date & Time

February 14, 2023


Online - link provided in reminder email before the seminar


Kathy Cunningham

***M.Sc. Students, this event can count towards one of the six mandatory Research Seminars Series needed to attend (MHS6991 or MGT6991).***

Tom Lawrence, PhD

The introduction of algorithms into organizational fields has the potential to effect significant disruption, as has been seen in fields from advertising to policing, and trigger institutional custodianship intended to maintain valued features of fields. Inspired by research on distributed custodianship, we explore how custodial work protects fields threatened by disruptive algorithms. We examine this issue in the context of the rise of high-frequency trading in the United States between 2000 and 2016. By using algorithms, high-frequency trading disrupted the field of U.S. securities trading. Our inductive analysis shows that high-frequency trading was brought under control through three linked types of custodial work (rhetorical work by guardians, technical work by reformers, enforcement work by regulators), each of which updated a key element of the field of U.S. securities trading (values, governance, practices). Integrating our findings with the concept of “envelopment” from robotics, we develop a theoretical model of how these three types of custodial work can—by orienting, architecting, and enacting an envelope—jointly envelop disruptive algorithms. Our study contributes to organizational research on algorithms and research on institutional custodianship.

About the Speaker

Thomas B. Lawrence is a Professor of Strategy at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Tom's areas of expertise Tom Lawrence include organization theory, social innovation, institutional theory, and social change. Tom’s research integrates cultural understandings of organizations, industries and fields with a concern for the role of individuals and organisations in creating change. This work has appeared in such journals as Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Organization Studies, Journal of Management Studies, Human Relations, and the Journal of Management. He is also a co-editor of the Sage Handbook of Organization Studies, 2nd Edition, Institutional Work: Actors and Agency in Institutional Studies of Organizations, and the Sage Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism, 2nd Edition. His most recent book is with Nelson Phillips and entitled Constructing organizational life: How social-symbolic work shapes selves, organizations, and institutions.

© 2023 Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa
Policies  |  Emergency Info

alert icon