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Oxford University Oxford Internet Institute

A multidisciplinary research and teaching department of the University of Oxford, dedicated to the social science of the Internet.

Digital Economies

Economics plays a central role in policy, business, and competition regulation—not to mention debates on issues ranging from intellectual property to network neutrality. It’s important to understand how technology shapes economic life, and to study the economic and social implications of new market structures and business models. Economic analysis can be used as a methodological toolset for rigorous thinking about important social issues, with strong positive and normative policy statements emerging naturally from this foundation.

People: Greg TaylorVili LehdonvirtaMark GrahamGreetje CorporaalOtto Kässi, Alex WoodMohammad Amir AnwarNicolas Friederici

Research

Many markets have been transformed by fundamental shifts in their technological underpinnings, giving rise to powerful intermediaries and platforms (like Google and Amazon), and to changes in the institutional arrangements through which work and earnings are arranged and allocated in society (think Uber and Bitcoin). We are applying economics to these and other issues of broad social import—from media bias to cybersecurity—in order to understand the role of incentives and individual behaviour in these arenas, and to answer questions such as: how should we govern and regulate new economic environments and processes? How should marketplaces be designed to function efficiently?

Selected Publications

The below are a few publications in this area: for complete lists of outputs, please refer to individual faculty biographies.

Teaching

Economics is a really general purpose, flexible and rigorous set of tools for thinking about behaviour: why people behave the way they do, and what are the origins of that behaviour in the environment they find themselves in.

Our MSc paper in Internet Economics provides an introduction to the economics of the Internet and to economics as a tool for social research more generally. The course shows how economic analysis can be used as a methodological toolset for rigorous thinking about important social issues, and how strong positive and normative policy statements emerge naturally from this foundation. It also shows how this framework has been (and is being) applied to a broad range of topics and questions related to the Internet and technology.

The MSc paper on Digital Technology and Economic Organization offers a tour of selected cutting-edge phenomena where Internet technologies seem to lie at the root of radical social discontinuities, particularly related to economic institutions and experiences of the self. Do Internet technologies give rise to radical social change, or do they just reproduce existing social and economic divisions and relationships?

The MSc paper on ICT and Development introduces students to the debates and practices surrounding the uses of ICTs with a focus on the Global South. It draws on resources from anthropology, development studies, economics, geography, and history to examine the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that underpin development — as a practice, as a subject of research, and as a discourse. The course also draws heavily on case studies in order to ground theory in practice, and examine a range of projects that have employed ICTs as a solution to problems in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Our research is organised in eight broad themes, where the Internet is having a significant effect on social, economic and political activity worldwide.