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ADM+S & PERN explore the use of “Economization” in the study and analysis of digital platforms

Author  Natalie Campbell and Andrew Moon
Date 29 May 2023

On 15 May 2023, ADM+S and the Platform Economies Research Network (PERN) delivered a workshop on Economization at The New School in New York City.

PERN began in 2018 as a reading group focused on different aspects of platform economies. While the breadth of the network has changed over the last 5 years, a large focus remains on developing works-in-progress in a shared learning environment.

In the 15 May workshop, Prof Koray Çalışkan (Parsons, The New School) was invited to present his forthcoming research, co-authored by Prof Michel Callon (Écoles des Mines, Paris) and Prof Donald MacKenzie (The University of Edinburgh), titled ‘Economization, Part 3: A Research Programme for the Study of Platforms.’ The draft article explores how the Economization method is useful to the study and analysis of digital platforms.

The article is the third instalment to two prior publications by Çalışkan and Callon, titled Economization, Part 1: shifting attention from the economy towards processes of economization, and Economization, Part 2: a research program for the study of markets. This research builds out from Actor-Network Theory, as developed by Callon and Bruno Latour, and aims to reshape how the social sciences understand “economies” and “markets” as achieved rather than pre-existing realities.

The latest iteration offers a critique of both platform reductionism (platforms as mere surveillance systems) and platform anachronism (platforms as mere multi-sided markets). Instead, it develops a “stacked economization” model.

ADM+S researchers Dr Jake Goldenfein and Prof Janet Roitman were discussants for the presentation, contributing their ideas and expertise to the proposal’s development, alongside Dr Salomé Viljoen from the University of Michigan.

Discussants provided insight about governance and regulation in areas of platform design, and how these innovations build out from long-standing inquiry and scholarship at the intersection of economic anthropology and science and technology studies.

Prof Roitman said, “As a method, economization is the best remedy for assumptions about value. One such assumption is that data is inherently valuable.”

“PERN research shows how data becomes a value form. The economization method is part of this approach, and helps us think more rigorously about the nature of financial and economic processes.”

The presentation generated two hours of discussion amongst participants, advancing ADM+S and PERN’s collaborative goal to connect researchers across disciplines to consider innovative methods for empirical studies on computational technologies and infrastructures.

“The workshop afforded a great opportunity to interact with PERN members in person at The New School and further build the connection between PERN and ADM+S,” said Dr Jake Goldenfein, Chief Investigator at ADM+S.

Learn more about ADM+S’ collaboration with PERN.