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Anticipatory anxieties: Prediction, property speculation, and rentiership

Authors: Rachel Weber*, University of Illinois At Chicago
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: expectancy, speculation, economic geography, financialization
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

I am writing a book that engages a diverse set of literatures (on algorithmic thinking, the social studies of finance and quantification) to examine the practices real estate actors use to predict the next boom/bust. Capitalism is, by nature, speculative. Investors in the present trade on future imaginaries as they make highly-leveraged bets on currency rates, commodity prices, stocks, and property values. The field of real estate employs myriad trend spotters and analytical techniques devoted to predicting future values so as to extract rents from those imaginaries. New data (sourced from communications platforms like Twitter), models (agent-based, machine learning, and neural networks), and theories about the degree to which the future will be more or less similar to the past (Black Swans) inform these predictions.

In the chapter I will present in this panel, I focus on the potentially contradictory stance of development actors like global real estate firms: they are self-interested creators of future knowledge while simultaneously influencing future trends. How do they attempt to stabilize malleable forecasts so as to popularize them while also seeking to game uncertainty and extract rents from the future? How do they signal their expertise and legitimacy in order to cultivate trust amidst skepticism not only of the project of forecasting but also about their ability to extract rents from particular speculations? I follow predictions “up the food chain” to examine why some sputter and fail while others are acted on as investment decisions are made or refrained from as a result.

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