The Platform Economies Research Network brings together social scientists and data and information scientists to conduct programmatic research on digital infrastructures (e.g. Amazon Web Services), new financial technologies (e.g. fintech), computational technologies for new modes of accounting and designing supply chains (e.g. blockchain), and emerging platforms for pricing and automated taxation and risk assessment.
This research collaboration is based on two complementary convictions. The first conviction is that social scientists must learn about the architectures and operations of digital technologies as a fundamental aspect of their research. Rather than refer to a vague “algorithmic logic,” social scientists must pry open the black-box of algorithmic operations to account for variations in their material effects. The second conviction is that data and information scientists must investigate the assumptions and categories that are implicit in their formulation of rules-based statements and algorithmic operations.
While there is significant work on algorithmic bias that demonstrates how computational practices both generate and confirm structural inequalities (race, gender), there is little research on the effects of algorithms as core aspects of financial technologies that generate value. The research network, therefore, brings different forms of expertise to bear upon common questions. While these questions are habitually investigated in separate venues that assume a divide between “the technical” and “the social,” this collaboration articulates questions that bring the technical and the social into one frame. Through sustained collaboration, the goal is to gain new competencies that will generate innovative methods for empirical research.