Abstract: Hock Eyes: The Hatching of a Centralized Bank Credit Card Infrastructure

Justin Douglas

Abstract

For many bankers, the answer to the managerial challenges of the increasingly competitive Cold War banking market was simple: automation. Fueled by prophetic statements made by parties outside the industry, by 1965 approximately two hundred banks across the United States had begun to investigate the utility of computers for banking.  Computers were sold to these bankers as instruments that could sharpen management decision-making through the production of forecasts and simulations. They were to provide managerial oversight and technical rational solutions to the increasingly complex problems facing an increasingly volatile and competitive banking market and help keep banks at the forefront of technological advancements.  As Paul Edwards has shown, those same promises of the power of computers were made to military and political personnel. However, this paper attempts to show that the implementation of a centralized computer infrastructure for credit cards was only possible when combined with ‘green metaphors’ that emphasized a decentralized governance system for emerging national and international credit card ‘interchange’ systems. These metaphors not only served to present an image of a large banking conglomerate as transcendental and deterritorialized, but also rendered imperceptible the vast material infrastructure and the work of thousands of laborers –often women- that comprised the emergent Cold War-era centralized credit card infrastructure.