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)


Manuscripts in Preparation 

Shaw, L. What is Bitcoin? Imaginative Control and the Realities of Innovating within Capitalist Markets. (Under Review)


In less than a decade, Bitcoin has gone from being the obscure monetary experiment of a small group of “techno-Libertarians” to becoming the basis of a new multi-billion dollar financial technology industry dominated by the many of the same institutions and actors it was initially intended to subvert. Building upon recent work by Beckert (2017) centering the role of “imagined futures” in economic action, this article argues that this type of trajectory should be understood as being a natural outcome of innovation in capitalist markets, one which arises organically from such systems’ inherent bias toward realizing the visions of those who are best positioned within the existing economic order to direct the flow of investment resources. Leveraging the strong conformance to free market ideals that characterized cryptocurrency’s conception and evolution, this work draws upon an original collection of sources documenting the history of cryptocurrency’s development, automated content analysis of over 7,500 media reports between 2011 through early 2016, and trends in venture capital funding over the same time period in order to demonstrate how this type of “imaginative control” plays out and the impacts it has on bounding the space of products and solutions that are likely to arise from capitalist markets.

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.