Abstract - The Information Society 22(5)

Power, Cash and Convenience: Translations in the political site of the ATM

Lucas D. Introna and Louise Whittaker

The automatic teller machine (ATM) will be for the foreseeable future the dominant mode of access to cash for those living in industrialized societies. In this paper we present the ATM as a political site where a multiplicity of relationships — primarily but not exclusively between the customer and the bank — become configured in ways that serve some interests and not others. The paper draws on the work of Winner, Haraway and Latour in discussing the ongoing translation of ATMs as it occurs in the UK, with further reference to South Africa and the USA. In order to make some of the politics of the ATM more visible, we illustrate the political struggles through four interconnected narratives: (a) the talking ATM, (b) the insecure ATM, (c) the charging ATM and (d) the cashless ATM. In each of these descriptive accounts we attempt to show how the ATM becomes (or is) a cybernetic actor that is configured and reconfigured through a multiplicity of political translations resulting in a multiplicity of politically significant cybernetic ATM networks. Finally, we briefly discuss how these narratives interrelate to form the political site of the ATM.


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