Program: Colloquium

Season 2 (2023-2024)


Season 1 (2022-2023)

Jonas Pentzien — 23.09.2022

Title: Platform Regulation, Policy Legacies and Institutional Change — Towards a Historico-Institutional Understanding of Platform-Specific Rulemaking in the U.S., Germany, and France

Presenter: Jonas Pentzien (Institute for Ecological Economic Research, Berlin)

Paper: Download here

Date: 23.09.2022, 16h CET | Zoom Link

Does the global proliferation of digital platforms trigger institutional change within and across advanced capitalist economies? By analyzing a novel data set of 117 platform-specific policies implemented in the ‘most different’ capitalist economies of the U.S., Germany, and France, this paper develops a comparative heuristic for the role that states play in an increasingly platform-driven capitalism. Drawing on the concepts of policy convergence and policy legacies in particular, the paper identifies where precisely the platform model exerts adjustment pressures, pushing states on a path that diverges from their respective policy legacies, and where it does not. The analysis reveals a mixed pattern: while responses converge in the field of competition, national distinctiveness has strengthened in relation to data.

Robert Dorschel — 28.10.2022

Title: The Social Codes of Tech Workers. On the Quest to be Middle-Class Wealthy and Morally Worthy

Presenter: Robert Dorschel (University of Cambridge)

Paper: Download here

Date: 28.10.2022, 16h CET | Zoom Link

No abstract available as the paper is the prologue and introduction to a PhD thesis/monograph

Julia Rone — 25.11.2022

Title: Silicon Valley’s Brand of Green Capitalism

Presenter: Julia Rone (University of Cambridge) & Filip Biały (Adam Mickiewicz University)

Paper: Download here

Date: 25.11.2022, 16h CET | Zoom Link

No abstract available

Franziska Cooiman — 13.01.2023

Title: Imprinting the economy: the structural power of venture capital

Presenter: Franziska Cooiman (Berlin Social Science Center)


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Date: 13.01.2023, 16h CET | Zoom Link

This article analytically links asset management and the digital economy by analyzing the structural power of venture capital (VC) investors. Therefore, I propose the notion of imprinting, which describes how financial actors, enabled by their structural position, shape businesses according to their specific logic. Concretely, I argue that VCs’ logic is one of assetization, whereby VCs turn startups into assets for themselves and their capital providers. To do so, VCs seek hypergrowth, selecting only companies with the potential to grow fast and large and decouple financial value from business fundamentals. Instead of the threat of exit, VCs establish direct and indirect channels of control: legally, via preferred shareholder rights, board seats, and payout conditionality; and as participatory capital, offering operational advice and access to their network. The article contributes to a nuanced understanding of financial sector power in contemporary capitalism.

Christine Trampusch — 27.01.2023

Title: Heterogenous business preferences in digital capitalism: Why business is divided when it comes to regulating data sharing

Presenter: Christine Trampusch (University of Cologne)


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Date: 27.01.2023, 15h CET | Zoom Link

As part of its ‘European Data Strategy’, the EU wants to create a market for non-personal data and unlock the sharing of industrial data between companies. This theory-building case study suggests that businesses’ data governance preferences are determined by their data value chain position, hence, whether firms monetise data as data holders (producers) in the upstream or as data re-users (access seekers) in the downstream segment. While the last favour legal rules in governing data sharing, the first only prefer contractual agreements. The data value chain theory draws on concepts of the role of data in value creating in the digital economy and on case evidence from the automotive and financial sectors which are typical cases of digital disruption. It helps to better understand coalition building in business lobbying activities, potential dynamics between private self-regulation and public policies, and probable feedback effects of digital policies on corporate power sources.

Christina Hecht — 24.02.2023

Title: Back to the future? Field understandings in the conflict about sharing platform regulation

Presenter: Christina Hecht (Berlin Institute of Technology)


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Date: 24.02.2023, 16h CET | Zoom Link

„Sharing“ platforms are part and parcel of everyday life - and so is the dispute about how to deal with them. In my project, I analyse how actors position themselves in this dispute by references to time and space. Platform companies’ websites and apps are not tied locally. They connect users worldwide without actually having to be on site. In doing so, they consider themselves to be future-oriented technology companies that fall outside the scope of established categories and legal frameworks. This interpretation does not remain unchallenged. Associations representing the tourism and taxi industries accuse Airbnb or Uber of unfair competition. They perceive the platform companies as competitors, and their market entry as a challenge. Just like governments, they repeatedly demand them to comply with local laws and procedures. This demand refers to existing institutional orders, the result of past regulatory processes. Platform operators criticise these as outdated and thus question their legitimacy. In this conflict about what platforms are and what rules should apply to them, actors who perceive each other as relevant are negotiating how their relationships should be institutionally framed in the future. All actors involved have an interest in stable conditions in the field, but this means something different to all of them. By referring to time and space, actors try to assert their own interpretations and thus secure themselves an advantageous position in the field. The project examines this dispute over legitimate understandings by investigating the case of Airbnb in Berlin and Cape Town. The platform is successfully established, so the disputes about how to deal with it can be considered typical. At the same time, variation in the broader institutional context can be examined: In Berlin, Airbnb is approached rather restrictively, in Cape Town more cooperatively. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with actors who refer to each other. Content analysis will be used to elaborate how they interpret the field which they are part of and how these understandings are connected to references to time and space. The comparison of these field understandings aims at analysing congruencies and points of friction. The results illuminate the background against which concrete regulatory issues are currently being negotiated.

Philipp Riederle — 24.03.2023

Title: A Separation of Powers for Digital Platforms. Horizontal Interoperability and Vertical Separation in Federated Platform Ecosystems

Presenter: Philipp Riederle (University of Oxford)


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Date: 24.03.2023, 16h CET | Zoom Link

Not available

Paola Lopez — 26.05.2023

Title: Power and Resistance in the Twitter Bias Discourse.

Presenter: Paola Lopez (University of Vienna)

Paper: Available upon request

Date: 26.05.2023, 16h CET | Zoom Link

In 2020, the machine learning algorithm that was deployed by Twitter to generate cropped image previews was accused of carrying a racial bias: Twitter users complained that Black people were systematically cropped out and, thus, made invisible by the cropping tool. As a response, Twitter conducted bias analyses and removed the cropping tool. Soon after, the company hosted an “algorithmic bias bounty challenge” inviting the general public to detect algorithmic harm and be rewarded for their findings. This paper examines in Foucauldian terms the push-and-pull dynamics of the power relations that are at play: Firstly, it studies the algorithmic knowledge production around the cropping tool, secondly, the bias analyses and their epistemic limitations, as well as the bias discourse as a vehicle for resistance, and, thirdly, the way in which Twitter as a company effectively stabilized its position – rendering the bias discourse a vehicle for counter-resistance, too.

Elise Antoine — 09.06.2023

Title: Sitting in or speaking out? The effect of policy complexity and group resources on lobbying strategies

Presenter: Elise Antoine (King’s College London)


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Date: 09.06.2023, 16h CET | Zoom Link

Understanding interest groups’ participation in political processes is critical for assessing the quality of democratic representation. This paper seeks to contribute to the existing literature by proposing a novel argument linking the degree of policy complexity and the amount of groups’ resources to lobbying strategies. Specifically, it argues that interest groups invest in both inside (‘sitting in’) and outside (‘speaking up’) lobbying strategies when the policy at stake is complex and they have more resources. This theory is tested using extensive and novel data spanning interest groups’ lobbying efforts on global internet privacy regulations. The empirical results demonstrate that the degree of policy complexity significantly moderates the linkage between inside and outside lobbying strategies, particularly for well-resourced groups.