21st December 2015

Disrupting Capitalism? Market Coordination and Regulation in the Digital Age

Call for papers for mini-conference at SASE 28th Annual Conference, ‘Moral Economies, Economic Moralities’, June 24-26, 2016,  University of California, Berkeley

DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS: January 18th, 2016

In the past two decades, the development of Internet and digital technologies has radically impacted capitalism, by transforming the organization of markets, firms and consumer agencies. All economic sectors are, in one way or another, affected by this transformation. Particularly relevant for socio-economists is the reshaping of many markets through digital platforms, as well as the disruption of industries (music, urban transportation, advertising, media…) by online ‘pure player’. Although the promise of economic efficiency and rationalization of markets – particularly strong during the New Economy bubble – still remains pregnant, more recent expectations associated with digital capitalism include consumer empowerment through online participative devices or the rise of a “sharing” economy explicitly distancing from pure economic rationality. The aim of this mini-conference is to bring together researchers studying digital markets. We will particularly welcome contributions that address the following thematic strands (although contributions exploring other related questions will be considered):

The infrastructure of digital capitalism. Internet and digital technologies provide a turnkey infrastructure of platforms and market intermediaries. These intermediaries support economic coordination between multiple actors, potentially on a large scale, by defining and organizing the economic qualification of goods, pricing and transaction standards, as well as matching modalities. In doing so, they embed and perform conventions and rules that define and stabilize the expectations of economic actors. Digital capitalism produces new coordination instruments, such as judgement and evaluation systems based on consumer participation (online consumer reviews), virtual and alternative currencies, cryptomarkets, “zero-price” business models, scoring algorithms and predictive calculation, etc.. The design of electronic marketplaces and the establishment of digital business models are therefore privileged observation sites for studying the process of internalization of values and moral norms in economic coordination.

The expansion of capitalism? The diffusion of digital technologies has also led to the inclusion of new entities to the market economy. This process of marketization relies on the ‘digitization’ of existing goods and services – mainly those produced by knowledge-intensive and creative industries – and also on the creation and circulation of new commodities such as in-game objects, personal data or online reputation. It is also based on the inclusion of new types of actors into the game of economic exchange: video-sharing websites (Youtube, Vimeo), marketplaces (Ebay, Etsy), lodging websites (AirBnB, Homeaway), micro-task websites (Fiverr, Amazon Mechanical Turk…) have in common to give private individuals means to step into amateur commercial activities. This ongoing process shifts market boundaries and softens the separation between economic and non-economic activities. It has consequently raised many debates and controversies related to the moral dimension of markets: digital labour, contested commodities, online participation, etc.

Market regulation in the digital age. The digital economy challenges existing regulatory frameworks in many ways. First, it tends to weaken existing national or multi-country regulations, because products and services are distributed and made available on a global scale. On various markets such as those for cultural goods, urban transportation, hotel industry, gambling, etc., national regulators are often providing various and loosely coordinated late answers to the challenges posed by new global digital services. Moreover, digital markets share economic characteristics (winner-takes-all dynamics, multi-sided markets, etc.) that make them more difficult to regulate. Secondly, the expansion of digital markets produces contradictions between different orders of worth. Many actors condemn the legal impediments to the development of digital innovation, whereas others focus on the problems of laissez faire (inequalities, monopolies domination…) and wish that the regulator protects specific economic actors (incumbents, national firms, consumers…), by law or tax policy. Different studies about digital markets regulations could bring a valuable input to understand what are the specific economic and moral orders produced on digital markets, and how law and politics aim at translating them in regulation frameworks and instruments.

Abstracts of no longer than 1000 words should be submitted by January 18th, 2016. If accepted, a full paper will be required by May 30, 2016.

All submissions should be made via the SASE website.

If a paper proposal cannot be accommodated within a mini-conference, organizers will forward it to the program committee, who will pass it on to one of the networks as a regular submission. Acceptance notifications will be sent by February 23, 2016.

Queries can be sent to jeansamuel.beuscart@orange.com,  thomas.beauvisage@orange.comkevin.mellet@orange.com,olivier.pilmis@sciencespo.fr, or marie.trespeuch@orange.com.