Peer Reviewed Articles

Shaw, L. 2015. Mechanics and dynamics of social construction: Modeling the emergence of culture from individual mental representation. Poetics. 52:75-90

Katherine Stovel and Lynette Shaw. 2012. Brokerage. Annual Review of Sociology. 38:7.1-7.20

Book Chapters

Lynette Shaw. “Charting the Emergence of the Cultural from the Cognitive with Agent-based Modeling.” In W. Brekhus & G. Ignatow (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Sociology. (Forthcoming)

Lynette Shaw. “Evolving Homo Sociologicus.” In P. Hedström & P. Ylikoski (Eds.), Architecture of the Social. (In preparation)

Manuscripts in Preparation 

Shaw, L. What is Bitcoin? Exploration, Exploitation, and the Emergence of the Cryptocurrency Category (Under Review)


In under a decade, cryptocurrency has gone from the radical monetary experiment of an online group of political activists to the basis of a multimillion dollar, financial technology industry. Alongside this rise, the question of what cryptocurrency is has accompanied it. This work applies established models of market categorization processes to explain the emergence of the cryptocurrency category out of the decentralized production context from which it arose. Using an original set of sources documenting the history of cryptocurrency’s development, automated content analysis of over 7,500 media reports between 2011 through early 2016, and consideration of quantitative metrics reflecting online searches, market activity, and venture capital funding, this analysis clarifies how a multivocal identity was an essential feature of cryptocurrency’s widespread adoption and development across a diverse coalition of groups during its broad “exploratory” (March 1991) period of development, but also, a factor which left it open to being preferentially defined per the interests of late-arriving, powerful audiences as it matured into a later “exploitation” (March 1991) phase of its development. In so doing, this article offers an empirical contribution to research on new digital monies and a consideration of how established models of categorization apply in decentralized development contexts.

Shaw, L. Something Out of Nothing: a Computational Model for the Social Construction of Value (Under Review)


Building on an interrogation of differences between traditionally economic versus sociological treatments of the subject of value, this work develops a computational model for the social construction of value capable of bridging between the two paradigms. Proceeding on the basis of a simple assumption that valuation constitutes a process of individual learning under conditions of initial uncertainty, this work places economic and sociological models of value in systematic dialogue with one another and demonstrates how \something” spontaneously arises out of \nothing” in socially constructed contexts via the emergence of stable and durable value conventions. Proceeding from this baseline, this paper then develops a set of substantively interesting modeling variants that demonstrate how this computational approach can be applied toward the end of establishing a more formal understanding of socially constructed value dynamics. Specific issues explored by these variants include the non-trivial interference in collective valuation processes that occurs in mixed social and non-social value scenarios, the high dependency of socially constructed valuations on early accidents and initial conditions, the effects of confident but technically incorrect early actors on socially constructed value, and the production of time-dependent “ratcheting effects” that emerge out of interactions between bubbles or panics with established valuation conventions.


Shaw, L. A Bitcoin’s worth: Talks of money and value at the advent of digital currency. (In Preparation)


The rise of digital currencies such as Bitcoin has brought with it a sustained disruption to some of the most fundamental taken-for-granteds of modern life – those of money and value. Using text from 100,000s of messages posted to two of the main online communities surrounding Bitcoin, this article employs a combination of automated and traditional content analysis to extract the “talks” (Swidler 2001) individuals have used to grapple with the questions of whether digital currency is money and why it has come to have economic worth. The resulting analysis uncovers a dynamic process of collective sense-making wherein the initial metallist views that first inspired the creation of Bitcoin as a new form of “digital gold” (Popper 2015) have unavoidably given way to broader repertoires of explanation. By exploring these variegated, sometimes contradictory, discourses on the economic, political, and social origins of money and value, as well as identifying an increasing emphasis on investment practice and the development of new conceptual syntheses, this analysis provides insight into a part of the explanatory toolkit (Swidler 1986) contemporary individuals draw upon to structure their understandings in economic arenas and considers how they are being reworked in the face of digital currency’s advent.


Shaw, L. Revelation as revolution: Conscious availability and the stability (and instability) of social orders. (In Preparation)


This paper defines a connection between the cognitive mechanisms which govern the transition between unconscious and conscious processing in individuals and the stability and instability of social orders. By building on prior modeling work that systematically demonstrated how shared social realities can emerge from individual mental representation processes, the present work is able to identify the key role of representational confirmation/disconfirmation in the establishment and disruption of the taken-for-grantedness of social life. Having identified this critical mechanism, then extends its implications another step further to begin outlining scenarios which are likely to engender an enhanced capacity for dramatic social change. This paper then concludes by briefly exploring the concept of “revelatory practices” as collective endeavors which intentionally pursue the disconfirmation of prevailing social representations and thereby instigate destabilizations of otherwise stabilized taken-for-granteds.