Originally posted on DBP Blog on 16th August 2017 by Joachim Lund

The DBP Blog is running a short series of contributions from our visiting scholars. This week, Kean Birch blogs on Entrepreneurship and Rentiership in Technoscientific Capitalism. Kean Birch is Associate Professor, Department of Geography, York University, Canada. He has recently visited DBP, working on a paper on “Technoscience rent: Towards a theory of rentiership for technoscientific capitalism”.

I want to start this blog by writing about tractors.

Writing on the Motherboard website, Jason Koebler argues that American farmers are buying black-market software from Ukraine in order to hack…


The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is suing Facebook for “illegal monopolization”, alleging that Facebook has pursued a multi-year strategy undermining competition as a way to cement its social network monopoly. The FTC points to the acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 as key examples of this strategy, acquisitions that the FTC itself waved through at the time. But these are potentially just the tip of the iceberg. …


Originally published at https://discoversociety.org on January 8, 2020.

Kean Birch

It’s interesting living in Toronto right now. It feels like we’re at the epicentre of global debate about the purpose and value of technological innovation, what with SideWalk Labs trying — but seemingly failing — to turn large parts of the downtown into the city of the future. What’s particularly noticeable is that innovation is almost sacrosanct, being almost impossible to criticize. Who could be against marvelous new technologies? …


Originally published at https://theconversation.com on November 5, 2019.

My recent research increasingly focuses on how individuals can and do manipulate, or “game,” contemporary capitalism. It involves what social scientists call reflexivity and physicists call the observer effect.

Reflexivity can be summed up as the way our knowledge claims end up changing the world and the behaviours we seek to describe and explain.

Sometimes this is self-fulfilling. A knowledge claim — like “everyone is selfish,” for example — can change social institutions and social behaviours so that we actually end up acting more selfish, thereby enacting the original claim.

Sometimes it…


Review of Steve Fuller (2016) “Academic Caesar”, London: Sage.

“Academic Caesar” by Steve Fuller

Academic Caesar starts with an outline of the threats to the university in our neoliberal times, although Fuller avoids taking an easy pot(-shot) at neoliberalism as the cause of all our scholarly suffering.

Fuller points out that the changing political economy of the last few decades has left the university increasingly bereft of its original purpose, which he defines as ‘producing knowledge as a public good’ (p.15). As the state’s role has changed, especially through its inf(l)ection by neoliberal principles, this has transformed the rationale for university education, since the latter had been so dependent on the former since and…


Originally published at https://theconversation.com on November 2, 2017.

I struggle with neoliberalism — as a problematic economic system we might want to change — and as an analytical term people increasingly use to describe that system.

I’ve been reading and writing about the concept for more than a decade. But the more I read, the more I think that neoliberalism is losing its analytical edge.

As a result of its growing popularity in academia, media and popular discussions, it’s crucial to understand neoliberalism as a concept. We need to know its origins and its definition in order to understand our…


Originally published at https://blogs.lse.ac.uk on January 29, 2016.

Kean Birch reflects on a classroom exercise introducing students to the reach of market-driven actions in everyday life. He finds the exercise is also helpful for his own engagement with an intellectual tradition with which he disagrees. According to Hayek, Friedman and Becker, every decision and choice can be conceived as a market decision. But in the process of negotiating and renegotiating every action in life, we end up entangled in an impossibly complex arrangement.

Most years I teach a course on neoliberalism. I end the first class with a game in…


Originally published at http://politicaleconomyoftechnoscience.wordpress.com on January 19, 2015.

Lets Plays on YouTube

I came across LPs a few years back — I think it was in 2009 or 2010. I was either ill or hungover and was thinking about playing Deus Ex again but wasn’t sure if it’s was worth the time. I looked it up on YouTube and came across an LPer called Kikoskia who does a brilliant turn at sardonic commentary — see here. I ended up watching 100+ videos, several hours worth of clips all told. I then explored more LPs, looking up games I’d played previously or never finished playing…

Kean Birch

Professor at York University, Canada who's interested in Big Tech and emerging forms of digital rentiership; obsessed with thinking about assets!

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