Brett Frischmann (Villanova University): “Friction-In-Design Regulation as 21st Century Time, Place and Manner Restriction” [12/01] –

Maximilian Schäfer (Yale University & University of Bologna): “Algorithms in the Wild: Evidence from an Online Marketplace” [18/01]

Sarrah Kassem (University of Tübingen): “Work and Alienation in the Platform Economy – Amazon and the Power of Organization” [02/03]

Jovana Karanovic (Erasmus University Rotterdam): “Back to What Truly Matters for the Future of Work: Insights from Multistakeholder Dialogue” [16/03]

Elizabeth Altman (University of Massachusetts Lowell): “Workforce Ecosystems: Reaching Strategic Goals with People, Partners, and Technologies” [23/03]

Jennifer Allen (MIT Sloan School of Management): “How Polarization Can Help Solve the Misinformation Problem” [30/03] –

Johannes Loh (BI Norwegian Business School): “Competition and value capture in platform markets: Implications for complementor strategy” [11/05]

Kristóf Gyodi (University of Warsaw): “Sharing economy, platforms and cities: empirical studies on Airbnb” [01/06]

Juliane Mendelsohn (Ilmenau University): Should the control of economic power (still) be the main focus of competition policy? [08/06]

Raghavendra Selvan (University of Copenhagen): On the Carbon Footprint of Deep Learning [29/06]

Tobias Fiebig (MPI for Informatics): 13 Propositions on an Internet for a “Burning World” [14/09] –

Santiago Andrés Azcoitia (IMDEA Networks) and Alba Ribera Martínez (Universidad Carlos III):
Data Marketplaces and the Data Governance Act: A Business Model Perspective [02/11]

Nikolas Guggenberger (University of Houston Law Center): Moderating Monopolies [16/11] –

Shiva Shekhar (Tilburg School of Economics and Management): The Bright Side of the GDPR: Welfare-Improving Privacy Management [23/11] –

Mikkel Flyverbom (Copenhagen Business School): Refractions and Reconfigurations of Pasts, Presents and Futures – Articulating the Relations between Data Integration and Algorithmic Predictions in Data Analysis Platforms [06/12]

Scott Shenker (UC Berkeley/ICSI): Raising Our Sights (A Long Rant From an Accidental Engineer) [07/12] –

Giovanna Massarotto (University of Pennsylvania): Proposing a Computer Science Approach to Antitrust [14/12]

14 December 2023

Giovanna Massarotto

Proposing a Computer Science Approach to Antitrust

Abstract: Computer scientists use the Byzantine Generals Problem as an analogy for the coordination problem among computers in a distributed network by considering that some computers might be unreliable. The Byzantine Generals Problem is a ‘trust’ problem. In my paper “Using Computer Science to Detect Cheat Tolerant Cartels” I use this problem and its algorithmic solutions to analyze how potentially computers can build strong cartels that can tolerate cheating, thus unreliable computers. These solutions work in abstract, thus potentially in both a computer and non-computer situations. Using the case of cheat tolerant cartels, I propose a computer science approach to complement the present law-and-economics antitrust analysis.

Link to paper:

Giovanna Massarotto is an Academic Fellow at the Center for Technology, Innovation & Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania and an affiliate of the University College London’s Centre for Blockchain Technologies (UCL CBT). Massarotto’s scholarship focuses on how technology affects society and the intersection of law, economics, and computer science. She is an active scholar and author of Antitrust Settlements: How a Simple Agreement Can Drive the Economy, published by Wolters Kluwer. In addition to the book, she has published multiple articles that investigate antitrust and regulatory issues related to blockchain, digital markets and software. Massarotto attained her PhD at Bocconi University in Milan.

7 December 2023

Scott Shenker

Raising Our Sights (A Long Rant From an Accidental Engineer)

Abstract: Engineers typically seek progress through technical innovation. This approach has brought us many wonders, from the transistor to the Internet to virtualization and the cloud. However, some forms of progress are less about technical innovations and more about changing the structure and behavior of the overall technology ecosystem (e.g., the companies involved and how they interact with each other and with customers). This talk will discuss how we can “raise our sights” to address these larger issues — in areas such as the Internet, the cloud, and personal privacy — and what that will require from our own ecosystem of innovation.

Scott Shenker spent his academic youth studying theoretical physics but soon gave up chaos theory for computer science. Continuing to display a remarkably short attention span, his research over the years has wandered from performance modeling and networking to game theory and economics. Unable to focus on any single topic, his current research projects include various topics in networking, system design, and privacy mechanisms. However, despite all these distractions and many decades of therapy, he has never overcome his obsession with Internet architecture. Unable to hold a steady job, he currently splits his time between the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and the UC Berkeley Computer Science Division. He is indebted to his many collaborators for inspiring him intellectually while patiently enduring his terrible sense of humor and his tyrannical approach to collaborative writing.

6 December 2023

Mikkel Flyverbom

Refractions and Reconfigurations of Pasts, Presents and Futures – Articulating the Relations between Data Integration and Algorithmic Predictions in Data Analysis Platforms

Abstract: This talk offers a conceptualization and analytical framework for the study of data analysis platforms. Starting from a theoretical focus on how data, algorithms and technological systems work as ‘digital prisms’ that refract and reconfigure social phenomena, my work articulates how data integration and data-driven prediction can be seen as forms of knowledge production that allow for new dynamics of seeing, knowing and governing. On this backdrop, the talk highlights five analytical dimensions of data analysis platforms (domains, datasets, models, humans and temporality) and offers a conceptualization of three different types and uses of data analysis platforms (merging, prognosis and projection). Taken together, the components of this analytical framework may guide conceptual and empirical investigations in this area of research. My goal is to contribute to emergent work seeking to articulate the shapes and workings of data analysis platforms as a sub-type of digital platforms. The theorization and empirical study of data analysis platforms is an important endeavor that may help us understand phenomena such as the digitalization and datafication of work and knowledge production, the reliance of the public sector on commercial platforms from the private sector, and broader questions about how data, algorithms and digital systems are used in attempts to grasp and shape futures. 

Mikkel Flyverbom is Professor of Communication and Digital Transformations at the Department of Management, Society and Communication, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Also, he is founding academic director of the BSc in Business Administration and Digital Management program at Copenhagen Business School.  

His research on digital transformations, data, internet governance, and tech companies has been published in leading international journals, such as Business & Society, The Information Society,Telecommunications Policy, Organization StudiesManagement Communication QuarterlyOrganization, as well as a number of books. His most recent book, titled ‘The Digital Prism: Transparency and Managed Visibilities in a Datafied World’ has been published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.  

Mikkel Flyverbom holds a position as research fellow at The Centre for Information Technology and Society at University of California, Santa Barbara, and has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, New York University and Rutgers University.  

He is a member of the Danish government’s Data Ethics Council and Digitalization Council, and chairman of the Danish government’s Expert Group on Tech Giants. Also, he writes a tech column for the Danish newspaper Politiken, and is a widely used expert on digital transformations and the tech industry. 

23 November 2023

Shiva Shekhar

The Bright Side of the GDPR: Welfare-Improving Privacy Management

Abstract: We study the GDPR’s opt-in requirement in a model with a firm that provides a digital service and consumers who are heterogeneous in their valuations of the firm’s service as well as the privacy costs incurred when sharing personal data with the firm. We show that the GDPR boosts demand for the service by allowing consumers with high privacy costs to buy the service without sharing data. The increased demand leads to a higher price but a smaller quantity of shared data. If the firm’s revenue is largely usage-based rather than data-based, then both the firm’s profit and consumer surplus increase after the GDPR, implying that the GDPR can be welfare-improving. But if the firm’s revenue is largely from data monetization, then the GDPR can reduce the firm’s profit and consumer surplus.

Link to paper:

Joint work with Chongwoo Choe (Monash University) and Noriaki Matsushima (Osaka University).

Shiva Shekhar is currently an Assistant Professor at the Tilburg School of Economics and Management (TiSEM). His research is primarily focused on the competitive strategies of platforms and their effects on consumer welfare. As a research affiliate at the CESifo Network and a member of the Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC), Shiva is involved in extending his research to managerial and policy domains, often sharing insights with national competition authorities.

Shiva’s professional background includes a period as an Economist at Compass Lexecon from October 2018 to December 2020. During his tenure, he contributed to the analysis of several high-profile mergers and multiple antitrust cases across various sectors. This experience has driven his research towards having a direct societal impact.

16 November 2023

Nikolas Guggenberger

Moderating Monopolies

Abstract: Industrial organization predetermines content moderation online. At the core of today’s dysfunctions in the digital public sphere is a market power problem. Meta, Google, Apple, and a few other digital platforms control the infrastructure of the digital public sphere. A tiny group of corporations governs online speech, causing systemic problems to public discourse and individual harm to stakeholders. Current approaches to content moderation build on a deeply flawed market structure, addressing symptoms of systemic failures at best and cementing ailments at worst.

Link to paper:

Nikolas Guggenberger is Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center. He also holds an appointment at the Cullen College of Engineering’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Guggenberger’s work focuses on antitrust, law & technology, privacy, and regulation. He has frequently advised government entities and served as expert witness on technology policy, financial markets regulation, and media law.

Before joining the University of Houston Law Center, Guggenberger was a Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and Executive Director of the Yale Information Society Project. Guggenberger held an appointment as the RWTÜV Foundation Assistant Professor at the University of Münster School of Law in Germany and taught at the University of Virginia School of Law and the University of São Paulo Law School. He also served as an advisor on banking and financial markets regulation and monetary and economic policy to Jakob von Weizsäcker at the European Parliament in Brussels. He clerked in Freiburg, Germany, and holds degrees from Freiburg University (JD-equivalent & PhD) and Stanford Law School (LLM). Guggenberger is in the first cohort of UH Presidential Frontier Faculty, a university-wide integrated interdisciplinary faculty hiring campaign to respond to federal priorities and societal challenges.

2 November 2023

Santiago Andrés Azcoitia and Alba Ribera Martínez

Data Marketplaces and the Data Governance Act: A Business Model Perspective

Abstract: The Data Governance Act sets up a harmonised framework for the development of trustworthy data intermediation services in the EU to enable a neutral and competitive environment for data sharing. These new regulations create some friction with the trends observed in the market, and with the business models data intermediaries are adopting.

This talk maps out some of these technical frictions and regulatory challenges arising in the data economy and marketplaces. First, it sets out the regulatory framework around the EU’s digital strategy, with a particular focus on the Digital Governance Act and the burdens imposed on data intermediaries as set out from their definition in Article 2(11), while also touching upon the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. Second, it discusses real examples of friction points arising from the legal separation of data intermediaries, from potential limitations to data pricing stemming from the regulation, and from emerging trends such as federated learning or model-based data intermediaries.


Dr. Santiago Andrés is a researcher focused on the field of data economics. He has 25 years of working experience in R&D, consulting and regulation in the ICT sector. Santiago holds a PhD in Telematics Engineering from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, a Masters in Economics from Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, and a Masters in Telecom Engineering from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. He currently works in the Data Transparency Group at IMDEA Network Institute in Madrid. Before joining IMDEA, he worked as a senior consultant in Axon Consulting and Deloitte, and as a project manager in Telefónica R&D.

Alba‘s research is centred on the competitive dynamics underlying digital markets and data operations from the legal perspective of EU competition law. Her latest insights contribute to the larger discussion on the Digital Markets Act and the European Union’s digital strategy. She is a PhD Student at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid and teaches competition law at Universidad Villanueva. She also occupies several editorial positions, such as in Kluwer Competition Law Blog and at the Journal of European Competition Law & Practice.

14 September 2023

Tobias Fiebig

13 Propositions on an Internet for a “Burning World”

Abstract: In this paper, we outline thirteen propositions on the state of the Internet and digital infrastructures. The core of our theses is that the centralizing Internet of today will not be sustainable and resilient, neither in terms of its energy needs nor in the face of a “burning world”, i.e., the rapidly changing world, facing an unprecedented human-made climate disaster and countless other shifts we currently find ourselves living in. Furthermore, we highlight that ongoing policy decisions do not necessarily benefit the resilience of the Internet in the future to come. Our propositions are based on our own research contributions published in the past, public discourse, and most certainly rooted in system administration lore and our own experience as system administrators. They are intentionally bold, to form a foundation for discussion, and we make no personal claim to originality and completeness. Finally, we note that, they do not aim at providing simple solutions, but hint at interrelations and challenges we must resolve to survive the future to come.

Tobias works on understanding how we operate networked systems, and how the way we operate them impacts security. For that, he combines classical network measurement with methods from the field of human factors. He got his PhD in 2017, and joined the MPI after being a (permanent position) assistant professor at TU Delft from 2017 to 2022.

29 June 2023

Raghavendra Selvan

On the Carbon Footprint of Deep Learning

Abstract: Deep Learning (DL) has transformed several application domains, including computer vision and natural language processing, with new and exciting possibilities. These advancements have been enabled, and accelerated, by large scale computations on massive data which also translate into increased energy- and carbon costs. In this work, we take a look at the carbon footprint of DL across domains, present techniques to quantify it and practices that could improve the environmental sustainability of DL.

Raghavendra Selvan (Raghav) is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen, with joint responsibilities at the Machine Learning (ML) Section (Dept. of Computer Science), Kiehn Lab (Department of Neuroscience) and the Data Science Laboratory. He received his PhD in Medical Image Analysis (University of Copenhagen, 2018), his MSc degree in Communication Engineering in 2015 (Chalmers University, Sweden) and his Bachelor degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering degree in 2009 (BMS Institute of Technology, India). Raghavendra Selvan was born in Bangalore, India.

His current research interests are broadly pertaining Resource Efficient ML, Medical Image Analysis with ML, Quantum Tensor Networks and Graph Neural Networks. Of late, another overarching theme of his research interests lie at the intersection of sustainability and ML where he is interested in investigating sustainability with ML, and also the sustainability of ML.

8 June 2023

Juliane Mendelsohn

Should the control of economic power (still) be the main focus of competition policy?

Abstract: This talk explores the historical and current dimensions of the argument that competition policy should focus on a single (albeit broad) goal; namely the control of (economic) power in the private sphere.

The talk is broadly divided into three chapters:

The historical part considers concentration and the legitimacy of private power as the original predicament of liberalism and one of the great paradoxes of modernity and how these assumptions shaped early antitrust and competition law doctrines.

Moving on to doctrines from the 1970’s, it acknowledges the achievements but also critiques the rise of ‘modern’ antitrust and competition policy and its focus on a narrow set of effects and consumer welfare.

Finally, it considers  the renewed scepticism about economic power and analyses the novel traits, risks and manifestations of power in the digtial world. It asks whether a single and broad policy aim can still serve competition policy better than a multitude or plethora of goals and what the function of competition law ought to be in the context of new regulatory frameworks.

Relevant Publications

  • 2023: Recondsidering Conglomerates – How are digital conglomerates different from those in the past? Theory and implications, The Competition Law Review (forthcoming)
  • 2023: Nachhaltigkeit in der Zusammenschlusskontrolle, Jahrbuch Junge Zivilrechtswissenschaft 2022 (forthcoming)
  • 2023: Hello, mandated unbundling, my old friend, in: Kirk/Offergeld/Rohmer, Kartellrecht in der Zeitenwende, Nomos
  • 2022: Competition, Concentration, and Inequality through the Lens of the Theory of Reflexive Modernisation, in: Broulík/Cseres, Competition Law and Economic Inequality, Hart Studies in Competition Law
  • 2022: Regulating Big Tech: From competition policy to sector regulation?, Ilmenau Economic Discussion Papers (forthcoming in ORDO)
  • 2021: Die “normative Macht” der Plattformen – Gegenstand der zukünftigen Digitalregulierung? (English: The “normative power” of platforms – the subject of future digital regulation?), MMR Zeitschrift für IT-Recht und Recht der Digitalisierung


Juliane Mendelsohn is Junior-Professor of Law and Economics of Digitization at the Ilmenau University of Technology. Her research focusses on competition and regulatory policy. Other academic interests include civil law, law and economics and legal theory. She completed her PhD on systemic risk and banking crisis Prof. Dr. Heike Schweitzer in 2018 and previously served as academic director of the Master for Business, Competition and Regulatory Law at the Free University of Berlin

1 June 2023

Kristóf Gyodi

Sharing economy, platforms and cities: empirical studies on Airbnb

Abstract: Airbnb is a prime example of the success and robust growth of peer-to-peer platforms. While Airbnb has been initially described as a sharing economy platform, providing services based on under-utilized assets, over time the role of professional hosts has increased. The impressive growth and rising professionalisation of Airbnb raise crucial questions about its overall impact on local residents in urban environments. In this presentation, I will provide a brief overview of my research on Airbnb in major European cities. I will present results on:

  • To what extent Airbnb is part of the sharing economy
  • The relationship between location variables and price
  • The spatial patterns of Airbnb
  • The spatial differences between listings managed by occasional and professional hosts 
  • The effectiveness of regulations

The presentation will highlight Airbnb in various major cities, including Berlin, Barcelona and London. The studies are based on geographic data science and spatial econometrics methods.

Kristóf is an assistant professor at the Department of Technological Change at the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the University of Warsaw. He is also a researcher at DELab UW (Digital Economy Lab), an interdisciplinary research institute at the University of Warsaw. Kristóf obtained his PhD in Economics in February 2022. In his thesis, he examined the accommodation services provided via Airbnb in the context of their economic impact in major European cities. His research interests include the economics of platforms, urban issues related to digitalization, and the use of data science methods. Kristóf has published as first author in leading high-impact academic journals in the field of management and computational social science, including Journal of Cleaner Production, Tourism Management, and Quality & Quantity. Besides being a PI in his PhD project funded by the National Science Centre in Poland, Kristóf was also a team member in Horizon 2020 projects (part of the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative) focusing on the identification of the social impact of digital technologies.

11 May 2023

Johannes Loh

Competition and value capture in platform markets: Implications for complementor strategy

Abstract: We study how competition between platforms relates to the strategic choices of their complementors. In particular, we are interested in how an increase in competition due to the entry of a new player affects the cooperative value co-creation efforts of complementors on the incumbent platform. Drawing on value capture theory, we argue that this has ambiguous implications for their incentives to continue to cooperate. On the one hand, the entry threatens complementors’ value creation and capture on the incumbent – a demand-side effect that increases cooperation to protect their profitability there. On the other hand, the entrant may constitute an attractive alternative, leading to misaligned value capture expectations on the incumbent – an outside-option effect that decreases their cooperation. We test predictions from a simple theoretical model in the context of the PC video game distribution market: Here, the dominant incumbent “Steam” faced competition with the launch of the “Epic Games Store”. We study two types of (non-)cooperative strategic choices of game developers on Steam: Multihoming by joining the rival, as well as their tendency to participate in Steam sales, which reflects their responsiveness to the incumbent’s most salient orchestration efforts. Our empirical analysis provides broad support for our theoretical predictions: Complementors who are primarily subject to a detrimental demand-side effect increased their cooperation with the incumbent, and those primarily subject to an outside-option effect decreased their cooperation.

Johannes Loh is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at BI Norwegian Business School. Before, he obtained a PhD from the Institute for Strategy, Technology and Organization at LMU Munich. In his research, he studies questions related to the strategic management and governance of digital multi-sided platforms and online communities, and his work has been published in the Strategic Management Journal. Recent examples include projects on the interplay of platform competition and complementor strategy in the context of the PC video game industry, the role of YouTube’s partnership program in incentivizing content supply, and how online social networks facilitate or stifle the exploration of new products by users of a music platform.

30 March 2023

Jennifer Allen

How Polarization Can Help Solve the Misinformation Problem

Abstract: When discussing the ills afflicting social media, there is a great deal of concern about the role played by polarization. While polarization may be part of the misinformation problem, here I present evidence that political motivations are also essential for one of the only possibilities for identifying and combatting misinformation at scale — crowdsourced fact-checking. I will discuss data from survey studies conducted on Lucid and observational analyses of data from Twitter’s crowdsourced fact-checking program. Consistent with theoretical predictions, the results demonstrate that (i) misleading counter-partisan content is flagged more than misleading co-partisan content, (ii) non-misleading content is rarely flagged, and (iii) more politically engaged and extreme users, rather than undermining the system, produce more and better flags. Thus, crowdsourced misinformation identification may succeed because of, rather than in spite of, polarization and political motivations.

Jennifer Allen is a 4th Year PhD Student in the Marketing Department at MIT Sloan School of Management. Her research interests include misinformation, political persuasion, and platform design. Prior to MIT, she worked as a software engineer at Meta on the News team, and as a research assistant at Microsoft Research with the Computational Social Science Group.

23 March 2023

Elizabeth Altman

Workforce Ecosystems: Reaching Strategic Goals with People, Partners, and Technologies

Abstract: In this seminar, Prof. Elizabeth J. Altman (University of Massachusetts Lowell) will discuss her multi-year research project with MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Consulting on the Future of the Workforce. Prof. Altman will provide an overview of her bookWorkforce Ecosystems: Reaching Strategic Goals with People, Partners, and Technologies (MIT Press). Workforce ecosystems include traditional employees and also external participants such as long term contractors, shorter term gig workers, complementor organizations, and technologies (e.g., AI, bots). This research explores managerial and organizational challenges and opportunities associated with these diverse, networked governance structures, including topics related to integration architectures, technology enablers, and leadership approaches. Illustrative examples derive from interviews with senior leaders in organizations such as Amazon, IBM, Mayo Clinic, NASA, Nike, Roche, Unilever, the U.S. Army, Walmart, and others. Please join us for what is sure to be an engaging and interactive discussion of a timely and relevant topic area.

Elizabeth J. Altman is an associate professor of management at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, research affiliate at MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, and guest editor for the Future of the Workforce at MIT Sloan Management Review. She has been a visiting professor at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) and visiting scholar at Harvard Business School. Altman’s research focuses on strategy, innovation, platforms, ecosystems, future of work, and workforce ecosystems. Her research has appeared in Harvard Business ReviewMIT Sloan Management Review, Academy of Management Annals, Journal of Management Studies, and other international journals. Prior to academia, Altman was a Motorola vice president.

16 March 2023

Jovana Karanovic

Back to What Truly Matters for the Future of Work: Insights from Multistakeholder Dialogue

Abstract: In this PLAMADISO talk, Jovana Karanovic will present findings from the recently released Reshaping Work Report “BACK TO WHAT TRULY MATTERS: Platforms, AI, and Youth in the Workplace.” Key drivers of the future of work include deployment and regulation of digital technologies, such as digital labour platforms and AI, advancing youth employment, and workplace well-being. The EU regulators made significant policy steps throughout 2021 and 2022.

Resonating with the topics at the top of the EU agenda, the Reshaping Work Dialogue facilitated constructive discussions among 32 organisations, representing different viewpoints and expertise to further inspire policy-making, as well as provide concrete solutions to the pressing challenges, specifically regarding: (i) the impact of the platform work directive; (ii) AI in the workplace; (iii) youth employment and workplace well-being.

The report can be downloaded under this link:

Jovana Karanovic is Assistant Professor at the Department of Technology and Operations Management (Business Information Management section) at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. Jovana’s research is at the intersection of digital technologies and new organizational forms, with a particular focus on platforms. Specifically, Jovana is interested in the new forms of organizing in the platform economy, strategies that digital platforms undertake, and their impact on the broader set of stakeholders, including platform workers. Relatedly, she also explores alternative organizational forms and governance structures in the platform economy, such as platform cooperatives. Her research has most recently been published in a leading business journal – the Journal of Management Studies.

Furthermore, Jovana is the Founder and Managing Director of Reshaping Work – a Foundation that has become a leading authority on the future of work topics. The foundation brings an international community together to discuss and debate the most pressing issues related to new digital trends (e.g., platform economy, artificial intelligence) and the future of work.

She has recently been recognized by the media outlet Silicon Canals among the most powerful female ecosystem builders of Amsterdam’s tech domain for the year 2021. Jovana is also an RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) fellow, and a frequent speaker at academic and industry events, of which the most notable appearances include TEDx Amsterdam and a feature in a Dutch documentary TV series Backlight.
2 March 2023

Sarrah Kassem

Work and Alienation in the Platform Economy – Amazon and the Power of Organization

Abstract: Once hidden behind the veils of entrepreneurship, it is now clear that platforms are reshaping the world of work, and Amazon has been a forerunner in setting the trend.

This book examines two key and contrasting Amazon platforms that differ in how they organize workers: its e-commerce platform and digital labor platform (Mechanical Turk). With access to the people who are working at the heart of these platforms, it explores how different working conditions alienate workers, and how, despite these conditions, workers organize within their political-economic contexts to express their agency in traditional and alternative ways.

Written for social scientists studying and researching the platform economy, this is a timely and important analysis of work and workers on the (digital) shop floor.

Sarrah Kassem is a Lecturer and Research Associate in Political Economy at the Department for Political Science at the University of Tübingen. She completed her PhD in 2020 on the alienation and agency of workers in the Platform Economy, delving more concretely into Amazon’s platforms. Her current teaching and research foci center around workers, working conditions, different forms of labor organization and the intersectional dimensions of the labor movement.

18 January 2023

Maximilian Schäfer

Algorithms in the Wild: Evidence from an Online Marketplace

(joint work with Vito Stefano Bramante, Emilio Calvano, Giacomo Calzolari)

Abstract: Can off-the-shelf repricing algorithms used in online marketplaces learn collusive strategies that harm consumers? To shed light on the sophistication of commercial repricing technology, we deploy our own repricing software on an online platform. We implement a EXP3 repricing algorithm and compare its performance against the artificial intelligence algorithm of a selected commercial repricer. We start by establishing a performance benchmark for myopic pricing strategies when faced with a mechanical repricing rule that undercuts rivals’ prices. When competing against the mechanical rule, our EXP3 algorithm achieves a better performance than the commercial software. Additionally, our EXP3 algorithms out-competes the commercial repricing software in a direct competition. These results cast doubt on the sophistication of the selected commercial repricing software. Designing algorithms that allow for intertemporal trade-offs is a prerequisite for collusion to arise. In simulations, we show that forward-looking strategies can be learned at low costs. This provides the basis for a more in-depth investigation of forward-looking algorithms, and, hence, collusion in future iterations of this work.

Link to paper:

Maximilian Schäfer is a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University and the University of Bologna in Italy. His research is primarily empirical and deals with topics related to the digital economy, such as the role of data for competition, algorithmic collusion, and the impact of the platform economy on established industries. On top of that, Max is also very interested in blockchain technologies. His future research agenda will further concentrate on topics at the intersection of economics and computer science. 

12 January 2023

Brett Frischmann

Friction-In-Design Regulation as 21st Century Time, Place and Manner Restriction

(joint work with Susan Benesch [Dangerous Speech Project; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society])

Abstract: Digital networked society needs friction-in-design regulation that targets the digital architectures, supposedly smart (data-driven, algorithmic) systems, and interfaces that shape human interactions, behavior, and will (beliefs, preferences, values, intentions). The relentless push to eliminate friction for the sake of efficiency has hidden social costs that affect basic human capabilities and society. A general course-correction is needed.

Friction in the digital networked environment can come in many forms. It can be as simple as a time delay prior to publishing a social media post, a notice that provides salient information coupled with a nudge toward actual deliberation, or a query that tests comprehension about important consequences that flow from an action–for example, when clicking a virtual button manifests consent to share information with strangers. We explore many examples using a simple descriptive framework that helps analysts compare and evaluate them.

One major obstacle in the United States to almost any regulation of how private companies design digital networked technologies and govern social interactions online is the First Amendment and its rigorous protections for free speech. The First Amendment has so often been used to strike down government regulation of various forms of speech that it now has a powerful preemptive effect, which some have called First Amendment Lochnerism. We are most concerned with the foreclosure of regulatory imagination and thus consideration and exploration of new regulatory possibilities, such as friction-in-design regulation.

In this article, we clear the First Amendment brush and reveal an open and mostly underappreciated regulatory territory to explore. We argue that friction-in-design regulation should be understood as Twenty-First century time, place and manner restrictions, akin to laws that prohibit using megaphones in the middle of the night, require permits before marches, and prohibit adult theaters in residential neighborhoods. This does not mean that friction-in-design regulation would escape First Amendment scrutiny altogether, of course. But it would trigger intermediate rather than strict scrutiny, so long as the friction-in-design regulation remained content neutral. In other words, not all friction-in-design regulations would qualify as content neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. We discuss various examples.

At the same time, we advance a novel governance theory that casts time, place and manner restrictions as a useful regulatory model to bring online from the offline context and conventional First Amendment jurisprudence. Properly understood, designed and applied, time, place and manner restrictions constitute a system for balancing individual freedom to communicate with the collective (state) interest in maintaining social order and peace, both offline and online.

Link to paper:


Brett Frischmann joined Villanova as The Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics, in 2017. In this new role, Professor Frischmann promotes cross-campus research, programming and collaboration; fosters high-visibility academic pursuits at the national and international levels; has the ability to teach across the University; and will position Villanova as a thought leader and innovator at the intersection of law, business and economics.

A renowned scholar in intellectual property and Internet law, Professor Frischmann came to Villanova from Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva University, where he was director of the Cardozo Intellectual Property and Information Law Program (2011-2016) and a Professor of Law. He is an affiliated scholar of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, an affiliated faculty member of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, and a trustee for the Nexa Center for Internet & Society, Politecnico di Torino. Professor Frischmann most recently served as the Microsoft Visiting Professor of Information and Technology Policy at Princeton University’s Center for Information and Technology Policy.

Professor Frischmann’s work has appeared in leading scholarly publications, including Columbia Law ReviewCornell Law ReviewJournal of Institutional EconomicsJournal of Economic PerspectivesUniversity of Chicago Law Review, and Review of Law and Economics, among others. His latest book, co-authored with philosopher Evan Selinger, Re-Engineering Humanity (Cambridge University Press)examines techno-social engineering of humans, various ‘creep’ phenomena and modern techno-driven Taylorism. Professor Frischmann’s books on the relationships between infrastructural resources, governance, commons and spillovers include Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources (Oxford University Press, 2012); Governing Knowledge Commons (Oxford University Press, 2014, with Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg); and Governing Medical Knowledge Commons (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2017, with Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg).  In addition, he has written a number of online articles on the intersection of technology and humanity for Scientific American

Prior to his appointment at Cardozo Law, Professor Frischmann was on the faculty of the Loyola University Chicago, School of Law from 2002 to 2010. He also has served as a visiting professor at numerous institutions, including Columbia Law School, Cornell Law School, Duke Law School, Fordham University School of Law and Syracuse University College of Law.