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Trading sites - destroyed, revealed, restored

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How did companies at the Trade Center respond to the destruction brought about by the attack on September 11th? In this paper we look through the concrete and glass facade of the twin towers into the socio-technical networks of people, machines, and ideas that constituted the trading rooms. We follow the traders of an investment bank adjacent to the Trade Center in their escape away from Ground Zero to a makeshift trading room in New Jersey. We accompany them in their efforts at restoring trading operations, which revealed a socio-technical network of relations, connections, bandwidth politics, and time-critical data normally hidden from view. We support these findings with interview materials from a focus group with heads of technology of major Trade Center companies. Successful recovery, we found, was a combination of planning and spontaneity, of redundancy and self-organization, typical of firms with non-bureaucratic and non-hierarchical forms. With these findings in hand, we visit the debate on the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan, and propose for the district at large the same recipe that worked for the firms: rather than pursue top-down detailed urban planning based on the world of finance that we know today, we propose instead to emphasize lateral ties and promote organizational diversity as a basis for innovation.

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