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  • Speculative Finance and Network Temporality in Duncan Jones's Moon and Source Code
  • David P. Pierson (bio)

At the heart of speculative finance and globalization exists a grand contradiction. While globalization, financial derivatives, and digital networks have created a system that circulates capital and distributes risks to create stability and protect against financial losses, these forces have also brought instability to local regions and populations as people experience the wild fluctuations of national currencies, increased price volatility in commodities, and a strong sense of inefficacy from their governments to affect their own economies. Edward LiPuma and Benjamin Lee state that "technologically-driven derivatives" have separated out value, wealth, and the cost of money in the exchange and transaction process from, "from the state of production, the social welfare of the producers, and the political needs of [End Page 255] citizens for self-determination, dignity, and the creation of identities" (LiPuma and Lee 2004, 2). Global or network capitalism—characterized by these nonstop flows of circulatory capital—has additionally created a new sociotemporality, a temporality that Robert Hassan defines as "network time" (Hassan 2007, 51–53). Network time produces its own context-oriented temporal experience that is detached from the local clock time of its users (Hassan 2007). In network time, the linearity of clock time becomes more and more irrelevant as the world becomes circumscribed by a series of network connections that redefine our experience of temporality.

This article is therefore most interested in how speculative finance and network time alter our basic sense of temporality. Hassan asserts that the high-speed networked economy produces the temporal effect of a "hyper now," or a perpetual present whereby the global society and culture becomes subordinated to the rationality and time of the network (Hassan 2009, 97). Accentuating this networked hyper now, speculative finance—which relies on high-speed electronic trading of derivatives—creates a temporality whereby the future is captured by and repositioned into the present (Martin, Rafferty, and Bryan 2008, 129–30). For example, modern capital markets and the production and circulation of financial derivatives are based on making short-term wagers on the future with defined starting and expiration points. Yet, because of their temporal status, derivatives are susceptible to unexpected currency and price fluctuations (LiPuma 2017, 156–58). While these high-speed markets rely on mathematical models to calculate risks and employ strategies that lock in the future for higher capital investments, the volatility produced by these actions—their negative effects—often occurs at the economic and social expense of workers and local populations (Hassan 2009). With the future increasingly closed off in terms of its range of possibilities, the present therefore functions as a kind of neoliberal temporal prison.

Although it is difficult to illustrate how speculative finance and network temporalities affect human life, cinema—especially science fiction films—can create narrative fantasies that illuminate the nature and the pathologies associated with living in the hyper now. In this vein, the instability and volatility of financial temporality can be witnessed in Duncan Jones's two science fiction films, Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011). In both films, the lead [End Page 256] characters are deprived of a clear future or a past, while being forced to live and labor within a perpetually pressured present. Moreover, these volatile characters are also "indebted" men thoroughly inscribed in what in Maurizio Lazzarato argues is the primary social and power relation underlying neoliberalism: the "debtor/creditor relationship" (Lazzarato 2011, 7). In neoliberalism's debt economy, the precariat class contends with uncertain futures and bare life. This essay argues that these films exemplify the ways in which speculative finance commoditizes risk and leverages assets to construct a perpetual present calculated for riskless flows of capital. Despite the main protagonists' efforts to liberate themselves from the temporal confinement of speculative finance and network capitalism, they nevertheless find themselves trapped within its domain.

Network Confinement, Speculative Capital, and Securitization

In Moon, blue-collar astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is nearing the end of a solitary three-year work shift mining Helium 3 on a moon station base for the Lunar Industries Corporation. Helium 3 is a highly valued...


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