Koray Caliskan, Professor of Strategic Design and Management, wins 2021 Falling Walls Scientific Breakthrough Award in Social Sciences and Humanities


Koray Caliskan

Koray Caliskan, Professor of Strategic Design and Management, wins 2021 Falling Walls Scientific Breakthrough Award in Social Sciences and Humanities

Koray Caliskan, an economic sociologist and associate professor of strategic design and management at Parsons School of Design Strategies, was running along the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul and listening to a podcast on blockchains and cryptos when inspiration came. Although he didn’t know much about bitcoin or cryptocurrency at the time, he began to explore the new technologies that made headlines last year, which in turn became a project. research which recently received a Revolutionary Award in Social Sciences and Humanities from the Falling Walls Foundation.

Caliskan’s research sheds new light on the materiality of cryptocurrencies, their communities, blockchains and markets. By locating a historically new form of money, Data Money, his research has shown that cryptocurrencies rely on the monetization of the right to send data privately to the public accounting spaces of blockchains. Using simultaneously an ethnographic study of a monetary data community and a macro sociological and longitudinal view of all cryptocurrencies and their global markets, Caliskan analyzed the formation of an emerging global socio-economic phenomenon and its dynamics of power.

“It was already an honor for me to be nominated, then to be shortlisted was great news,” Caliskan shares. “But being a winner was a real surprise. I am very happy with the nomination of my scientific colleagues and the recognition by the jury of my rather heterodox research, bringing together complex computer analyzes and global ethnographic research.

Although the podcast inspired Caliskan’s initial interest in cryptocurrency, he engaged with the market to further research, buy and sell crypto. He sold his wallet in 2018 and recently discovered that everything he sold a few years ago is currently valued at $ 6 million.

“I’m not sure my family was happy when I told them that I sold all the cryptocurrencies I bought for ethical research reasons,” he says. “This research has become my most expensive project.

With an economy that recently surpassed $ 2 trillion, cryptocurrency has been gaining momentum for years, even though many people don’t know what a crypto economy entails, or how to engage with them. communities that use these new forms of technology. Caliskan’s research project is particularly important and relevant for a variety of reasons, and draws on ethnographic fieldwork, computational textual analysis of a million pages of documents, big data analysis of all Twitter interactions d ‘half a million addresses and a sociological survey of a global cryptocurrency community.

“My research presented four basic conclusions,” he explains. “1) Focusing on the materiality of data money, my exchange shows how cryptocurrencies are made by monetizing the right to send data privately over a public space, built by blockchains. 2) Contrary to expectations, research has shown that Data Money does not replace fiat currencies; they contribute to the dollarization and euroisation of trade. Additionally, centralized exchanges are now replacing decentralized blockchains on the ground, creating a need to rethink the policy measures surrounding crypto economies. 3) Drawing on a detailed study of a global cryptocurrency community, the project shows how these seemingly decentralized financial universes are dominated by sociologically identifiable power centers in terms of gender, geographic location, development considerations and educational levels. 4) Exchange platforms are now simple two-sided markets. We cannot regulate them if we continue to think that platforms like Amazon or Crypto Exchanges are a new kind of market. These are stacked economy processes. This is a new thing. This requires a new approach and regulation logic.

Caliskan’s research had an immediate impact on the cryptocurrency world, which has already started working to be more inclusive and diverse by moving away from a community dominated by men and whites, in addition to news. discoveries for business communities around the world. He is currently working on a book on his research, “Data Money”, which will be released later this year.

“The biggest implication of my research is all economic communities, not just crypto communities,” explains Caliskan. “The new financial world opened up by blockchains and the emergence of data money will be one of the most significant changes in global economic history.”

Caliskan is also the recent recipient of a prestigious Fellowship from the Economic and Social Research branch of the UK Research and Innovation Council. He will work with a team of researchers and post-doctoral colleagues to conduct socio-economic research on online advertising and its data, materiality, systematics and power.

“Online advertising now finances the entire Internet,” he explains. “However, research on its economic and sociological universe is very limited. Our team, led by one of the best economic sociologists of our time, Don MacKenzie, will shed light on the world of digital advertising by opening ‘the hood’ to examine its (search) engines, its transformation from a simple “rental” of space on websites to real-time ad auctions, data generation strategies and infrastructure design considerations.

Additionally, the research project will examine why advertising technology takes the form it takes and investigate the relationship between the materiality of advertising and various forms of power and politics, such as Google and Facebook. The project will be anchored in a transdisciplinary research framework to ensure that the results reflect reality and are not siled. Caliskan plans to co-lead the research on US platforms with his colleague Don MacKenzie.

“We will draw on design considerations, social research and technical analysis to make sense of the sociological economic universe of digital advertising,” explains Caliskan. “We are very happy to start this long journey with many difficult questions to hopefully offer some satisfying answers. “

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