“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.”

This course will provide an introduction to the economics of the Internet and to economics as a tool for social research more generally. Economics is, at its heart, the study of why businesses, policy makers, and people make the choices they do—and of what can and should be done to influence these choices. Economics, though, is not just a body of knowledge. The discipline is founded upon a rigorous and unified methodological framework for examining social behaviour. Since this framework builds on principles that are relatively fundamental, it can be readily applied to many new and interesting problems that are not obviously of an economic nature. This has led to economics occupying a central role in policy formulation, competition/industrial regulation, consultancy, and business strategy—not to mention debates on issues ranging from intellectual property to network neutrality.

Throughout this course we will see 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. We will also see how this framework has been (and is being) applied to a broad range of topics and questions related to the Internet and technology. No prior knowledge of economics is necessary.

Key Themes:

  • How does the Internet challenge existing models of economic behaviour and markets?
  • What kinds of business models and practices are used by online firms?
  • When and how should policy makers intervene to ensure the full social potential of the Internet is realised? What is the rationale for common forms of statutory or regulatory intervention?
  • How do people and firms behave within the context of the Internet? What important economic considerations does the Internet introduce?
  • How should interactions mediated by the Internet be structured? How should markets and online platforms be designed to facilitate good outcomes?

Outcomes: At the end of this course students will have obtained an understanding of the basic concepts and methodology of microeconomic theory; know how economic analysis can be applied to help understand interaction and exchange on the Internet and a broad range of other online social phenomena; be able to formulate research questions that are amenable to economic analysis and use the tools of economics and game theory to provide answers to them; understand how the Internet mediates interaction between agents, and how the precise mechanism of this interaction can affect social and commercial outcomes; be familiar with important work on the economics of the Internet authored by distinguished researchers in the field.

This page was last modified on 10 May 2017