UCL Urban Laboratory


Counterspeculations audiotour of the City of London launched

17 October 2018

Welcome to the Counterspeculations audiotour, an interactive walking guide to the City of London, the square mile of England's capital known for centuries as a hub for the development of finance capital.

Counterspeculations audiotour of the City of London

This tour and the audio you will hear is based on an walking event held in The City on April 14, 2018, organized by Dr Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou and Dr Max Haiven with over 15 speakers who, collectively, mapped out some contours of the history and present of "financialization" through the navigation of these historic streets.

This audiotour has been prepared thanks to the support of University College London Urban Laboratory and the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL) based at Lakehead University, Canada.

Interactive map

This interactive Google Map can be navigated on your smartphone. Just select the tour locations and follow the Soundcloud links to listen to a roughly 15-minute presentation at each station. Alternatively, download the audio to your smartphone via the file links of the podcast below and take them with you.

Listen to or download the audio

Below, you can find links to the audio from each individual section of the tour, which you can download or stream. You can also listen to them all on Soundcloud at the following link: https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/sets/counterspeculations/

  1. Conrad Moriarty-Cole, "Machine Learning and the Financial Imaginary.": Does artificial intelligence have an imagination? In this presentation, originally recorded at the headquarters of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, Conrad Moriarty expands our understanding of the hyper-development of data analytics, machine learning and algorithmic trading in today's financial worlds.  Moriarty-Cole is a PhD Candidate and associate lecturer in cultural studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-01-conrad-moriarty-cole
  2. Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, "The Speculative Spirit of Finance": The sphere of finance declares itself to be a secular, rational and even scientific domain of risk management and competitive calculation. But in this presentation, originally recorded on the steps of Saint Paul's Cathedral, Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou suggests that, from a sociological perspective, the world of speculative capital has many affinities to religions past and present.  Komporozos-Athanasiou is an assistant professor of social theory at University College London where he also heads the Sociology and Social Theory Research Group. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-2-aris-komporozos-athanasiou
  3. Robbie Richardson, "North American 'Indians' and British Modernity": How did 18th century British myths and fantasies about Indigenous people in the Americas inform and shape the growth of its financialized empire? In this episode of the Counterspeculations audio tour, originally recorded at the base of the statue of Queen Anne which stands in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, Robbie Richardson presents on "North American Indians and 'British' Modernity." Richardson is a lecturer in 18th century literature at the university of Kent and a member of Panieau First Nation in what is currently Canada. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-3-robbie-richardson/
  4. David Benque, "The Monistic Almanac" : For centuries, the peculiar form of publication known as an almanacs has provided eager readers with a tantalizing mixture of advice and speculation based on a combination of worldly and metaphysical information. In this presentation, designer David Benque presents his experimental project the Monistic Almanac, a reflection on and guide to the digital arcana of financialization. Benque is a critical designer living and working in London, where he is also a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-4-david-benque/
  5. Ed Mayo, "The Origins of Mutuality.": Today, the Square Mile of the City of London is home to financial corporations that lionize the virtues of competition and profiteering. But in a bygone age it was an area organized by and around guilds that laid down roots of mutuality and cooperation still bear fruit today. In this presentation, which was originally recorded in a small part across the street from the Goldsmiths' Hall, Ed Mayo, who is Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, speaks of "the origins of mutuality." Mayo is also a former director of the New Economics Foundation and the author of a recent book on values in business and leadership. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-5-ed-mayo/
  6. Judith Suissa, "'No Gods, No Masters'; Antisemitic Tropes and Utopian Ideals in Imagining and Resisting Financialization.": The history of finance capital is replete with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that associate Jews with a socially corrosive cosmopolitanism. But in this presentation, Judith Suissa demonstrates that Jewish anarchist societies in London present another history of internationalism from below. It was originally recorded at Grocers' Hall in the heart of the City of London, near the site where the Great Synagogue once stood.  Suissa is a professor of Philosophy of Education at University College London. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-6-judith-suissa/
  7. Carla Ibled, "The Fear Index" : While once upon a time we might have imagined that investing and finance was about securing future wealth, today the biggest firms have found methods to profit from chaos and uncertainty. In this recording you'll hear Carla Ibled explain the inner workings of the VIX, the so-called Volatility Index. It was originally recorded outside the offices of Black Rock, the world's largest asset manager. Ibled is a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-7-carla-ibled
  8. Brett Scott,  "Alchemy and the Gold Underground." : Gold has perhaps always had a febrile influence on the imagination. And while for some the age of financialization has allowed conceptions of money and wealth to become abstract and immaterial, for others gold is still king. In this presentation, originally recorded at the London Bullion Market, right across the lane from the historic London Stock Exchange, Brett Scott meditates on the alchemy of dreams. Scott is an economic explorer, finance hacker, author and journalist, whose writing on money and technology has been published in major newspapers and magazines around the world. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-8-brett-scott/
  9. Paul Gilbert, "'Political Risk', Imperial Nostalgia & Technologies of the Imagination": One of the oldest firms in the City of London, and a pillar of modern finance throughout its history, is Lloyd's insurance. In this presentation, Paul Gilbert explores how the firm's growth was based in part on the transatlantic slave trade, and the way that these colonial legacies continue to shape the way the financial realm measures and manages risk in the international field. It  was originally recorded at the Cornhill Water Pump located right beside the historic London Stock Exchange and in the shadow of Lloyd's iconic skyscraper. Gilbert is a lecturer in international development at the University of Sussex and also led tours of the City of London as part of the Occupy London Tours Collective. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-9-paul-gilbert/
  10. Steven Taylor, "A Post-financial London Imaginary": It seems impossible to imagine a London outside of the influence of high finance and its effects of life, work, housing and the built environment. In this presentation, which was originally recorded at the French Ordinary Court behind what is now Fenchurch Street Station, Steven Taylor draws on the work of Cornelius Castoriadis and other theorists to speculate on a city beyond speculative capitalism. Taylor, who worked for many years as an innovation consultant for companies worldwide, is a graduate student in architecture at the University of East London. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-10-steven-taylor/
  11. Carey Young, "Passion Assets" How has art been transformed into the plaything of the world's financial elite, and what are the prospects and potentials for art and artists in an age of financialization? In this episode of the CounterSpeculations audiotour, artist and professor Carey Young offers her perspective. Young is an internationally renowned artist whose work, in a range of media, addresses themes including economics, law, politics, science and communication. She is also a lecturer at the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-11-carey-young/
  12. Rachel Rosen, "Playground Ambiguities": What can children's play, and the civic infrastructures that we build to facilitate it, teach us about our moment of financialization? And how can that play guide us towards thinking and dreaming of a society beyond speculative capitalism? Rachel Rosen explores these questions in the following presentation, which was recorded at Tower Hill Gardens. Rosen is a Senior Lecturer at University College London, whose research focuses on unequal childhoods, social reproduction, and migration in late capitalism. https://soundcloud.com/uclurbanlab/counterspeculations-12-rachel-rosen/

Read articles from the contributors

Many of the scholars whose voices you can hear in the podcast have prepared short articles for the Counterspeculations section of Public Seminar, the online platform for the New School for Social Research in New York. This section was edited by Dr. Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou and Dr. Max Haiven. It can be found at the following link: http://www.publicseminar.org/category/verticals/imaginal-politics/counterspeculations/

Special accompanying art projects

Two presenters who contributed to the CoiunterSpeculations project, but whom we could not include in the audiotour, have prepared work that can be viewed online

  • THE GREAT OFFSHORE: The art/activist ensemble RYBN.org has developed a gadget for navigating new psychogeographies of financialization: The Offshore Tour Operator, which leads users to the location of offshore tax havens. Visit the project website here, or read more about it in this interview.
  • VERTICAL HORIZONS - THE SHARD: Artist Tom Wolseley's film Vertical Horizons meditates on the fate of the city of London and its inhabitants in the shadow of The Shard, Western Europe's tallest building. You can read more about the project here.

Additional information

On April 14, a temporary assembly of activists, artists and interdisciplinary academics drifted together through the City of London to explore the intersections of finance and the imagination in the historic district of English (and global) wealth and power. With over 15 presentations on topics ranging from algorithms to architecture, from colonial legacies to anarchist histories, from yoga to children's play, this event sought to understand the speculative powers at work both for and against financialization. Devised in honour of the late theorist of the radical imagination Cornelius Castoriadis, each stop on the tour took the form of a 15-minute informal presentation. Later in the afternoon, the attendees retired to University College London for a panel of artists and critics responding to financialization and a closing conversation.

This event was organized by organized by Dr. Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, Assistant Professor of Social Theory at University College London and Dr. Max Haiven, Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Canada.

This audiotour was produced and hosted by UCL's Urban Lab.