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Accepted Paper:

California Dreamin’: Economists Become Expert Epistemologists for Platform Capitalism  
Edward Nik-Khah (Roanoke College)

Short abstract:

This paper examines three circumstances contributing to the historical development of tech economics: the response of the field of business economics to the ascendance of platform capitalism, the legacy of operations research, and the training received by practitioners in the field of market design.

Long abstract:

Economics have undertaken to perform some of their most significant work on behalf of for-profit platform enterprises—a set of activities now commonly gathered under the heading “tech economics.” The American Economic Association has extolled the “mutual influence between tech companies and economists”; spokespersons have proclaimed the advent of a new scientific field; researchers in artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction have sought to build bridges to this work. Economists claim these activities to be the new wave of market design, offering novel methods of addressing market failures to improve how markets work. But their “designs” do not actually resemble the generic markets of textbook economics, leading some to question whether they should even be understood as “markets.” To illuminate the significance of their ministrations, this paper scrutinizes the respect in which the things that tech economists design are markets, such that they may qualify as candidates for improvement. Moving beyond the published word of such designers, this paper tugs on three threads running through the historical development of tech economics: the response of the field of business economics to the ascendance of platform capitalism, the legacy of operations research, and the training received by headline practitioners in the field of market design. It distinguishes multiple conceptions of markets in terms of epistemological presumptions and assesses them for fit with the platform firm.

Traditional Open Panel P339
Algorithmic market design as provocation for STS studies of the market
  Session 2 Friday 19 July, 2024, -