The SEC’s retail investor 2.0: Interactive data and the rise of calculative accountability

Alan Lowe, Joanne Locke, Andy Lymer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States mandated a new digital reporting system for US companies in late 2008. The new generation of information provision has been dubbed by Chairman Cox, ‘interactive data’ (SEC, 2006a). Despite the promise of its name, we find that in the development of the project retail investors are invoked as calculative actors rather than engaged in dialogue. Similarly, the potential for the underlying technology to be applied in ways to encourage new forms of accountability appears to be forfeited in the interests of enrolling company filers.

We theorise the activities of the SEC and in particular its chairman at the time, Christopher Cox, over a three year period, both prior to and following the ‘credit crisis’. We argue that individuals and institutions play a central role in advancing the socio-technical project that is constituted by interactive data. We adopt insights from ANT (Callon, 1986; Latour, 1987, 2005b) and governmentality (Miller, 2008; Miller and Rose, 2008) to show how regulators
and the proponents of the technology have acted as spokespersons for the interactive data technology and the retail investor. We examine the way in which calculative accountability has been privileged in the SEC’s construction of the retail investor as concerned with atomised, quantitative data (Kamuf, 2007; Roberts, 2009; Tsoukas, 1997). We find that the possibilities for the democratising effects of digital information on the Internet has not been
realised in the interactive data project and that it contains risks for the very investors the
SEC claims to seek to protect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-200
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


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