I am interested in getting more involved in the Plurality research space. In this post, I am going to brainstorm and outline a few hypotheses I have currently about how I might contribute and what I find interesting. (These are just hypotheses so they could be wrong!)

Direction 1: empirical quantitative research. Especially connected to experiments in the crypto space e.g. around public funding (QV/QF?), governance (DAOs) etc. Why is this a useful direction?

  • What I see a lot of so far:
    • Technical, engineer-type perspectives – how do you implement these things etc. What is technically possible?
    • Theory thinking – e.g. economists, conceptual thinkers; people like Glen Weyl, Vitalik and others. Market design, systems perspectives.
  • What I see comparatively less of: quantitative empirical research about these topics (though there is some!) – especially around “policy”, “causal inference” type questions related to governance, PGF. Especially relative to what is possible. Some brainstorms on empirical questions:
    • What is the impact of different sorts of DAO governance models? What are some of the challenges? I know Kishore is interested in some questions here (I don’t want to scoop any of his research ideas, but this is an interesting direction!).
    • What are the effects of shifting to QV or QF models? I think some claims here e.g. in Radical Markets & QF research paper.
    • Do current public funding efforts fund the “right” things?
    • Studies of other sorts of studies of “plural technology” implementations – e.g. pol.is.
    • (There’s a lot more that can go here)
  • Other connections / relevant projects: CAT Lab, GitCoin, RPGF.
  • Also, there is a preponderance of data available at least in principle.
  • There also seem to be lots of (natural) experiments, policy changes etc. that could be sites of study.
  • In short, it seems like there could be an opportunity & potential here which I could contribute to as someone with background in quantitative social science research.

Direction 2: plural data science; plural knowledge creation: This direction is more challenging to articulate, but in short I’ve been surprised that in the plurality space theere is not more of an emphasis on building more democratic, pluralistic modes of social scientific knowledge-making. For example, Weyl & co. discuss “plural social science” in the plurality book, but seem to retain a surprisingly (to me) technocratic vision of social scientific knowledge making; I dicussed this in my notes here.

  • I outlined some inspirations around a more pluralistic mode of social scientific knowledge making here
  • Another good reference is the Data Feminism book, as well as lots of STS work, including from Sheila Jasanoff (see e.g. my notes on coproduction), digital forms of public reason and also Ezrahi.
  • Some questions on this theme:
    • Whose knowledge, whose ways of knowing count as “fact”? Who gets to decide (and one what terms) e.g. how quantitative outcomes are measured, defined, analyzed etc? Compare to the idea of “epistemic violence” discussed in Data Feminism book.
    • What sorts of tools would support more transparency and plurality in the processes of knowledge creation? One reference: Airbnb’s knowledge repo. Another reference: CAT Lab.
    • The role of experts; c.f. Dewey’s articulation (referenced in notes here), technocratic models, others. See also my critique of technocratic governance on related themes.
  • Concrete idea: the knowledge repo for public interest data science and quantitative research (maybe initially focused in the blockchain space). Something I’ve thought about for a long time (and pitched at Berkman previously). Benefits:
    • Full transparency about knowledge creation processes and logics.
    • Public and open peer review process that can intervene at all levels of the knowledge-creation process. Maybe a special say or need for approval from those who are directly affected by the knowledge claim?
    • Could benefit also data journalists and other borderline academic work; other public interest data work about the internet.
    • Arguable improvements over the academic review process – on the internet, especially in the web3 space, can more readily have full transparency over the data generation process. E.g. here are the exact queries for this public database like Flipside which is ETL on top of this other public database (the Ethereum blockchain).
  • Could be governed by a DAO or e.g. with something like Gov4Git.

More idiosyncratic ideas that I have been thinking about here:

  • Comparative study of the technology of public engagement processes in the US vs. in Taiwan.
    • Compare e.g. regulation of Uber, use of polis etc. with FCC comment process around net neutrality and various shenanigans.
  • In general, tracing more connections between plurality space and STS.
    • Better peeling apart of “plural technologies” idea and technological solutionism (draft in process).
    • Sociotechnical imaginaries as a useful theoretical term (noted here).

Perhaps I will keep adding to this list as I continue thinking. If you are reading this and have thoughts or want to collaborate, feel free to email me at fossj117 AT gmail DOT com.