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

Published Conference Proceedings

Shaw, L. 2019. “Social Valuation Dynamics for the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Era.” In Morales, A. (Ed.), IX International Conference on Complex Systems, STEM Academic Press, Cambridge, MA, p. 32 – 43.

Book Chapters

Shaw, L. 2019. “Charting the Emergence of the Cultural from the Cognitive with Agent-based Modeling.” In W. Brekhus & G. Ignatow (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Sociology, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 402 – 420.


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. The Inevitable Sociality of Money: Menger’s Practical Confrontation with the Social Construction of Value in the Rise of Bitcoin. (Under Review)


Bitcoin has gone from being the monetary project of a small online group to a globally exchanged money with a market valuation of several thousand dollars (USD) per unit. It has achieved this without state or commodity backing and in spite of the irreconcilability between its material basis and the economic theories which inspired its creation. This article endeavors to understand how this was possible by applying a computationally grounded (Nelson 2017) approach to 100,000s of messages from Bitcoin’s two main online communities. Through this analysis, it identifies continuing divergence in participants’ understandings of why Bitcoin possesses value and an emergent focus on the inevitably social problem of adoption. In demonstrating how this confrontation ultimately led to the promotion of activities which affirmed that Bitcoin had value in practice, this article develops a new argument for the centrality of community practices in “bootstrapping” the initial economic value of a money.


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.


Meluso, J., Austin-Breneman, J. & Shaw, L. An Agent-Based Model of Miscommunications in Complex Systems Engineering Organizations.                 (Under Review)


Communication in complex system design organizations affects the performance of the systems they design. Miscommunication occurs when communication results in a “deficiency” or “problem” that hinders parties from fulfilling their individual or collective values. A recent study demonstrated widespread miscommunication in a Fortune 500 engineering firm about the definition of “an estimate” in a complex system design context. Building on that work, this study used a Monte Carlo simulation (8800 runs) of an agent-based model to demonstrate how systemic design process miscommunication may affect complex system performance. Each run of the simulation created a unique 1,000-artifact system using a network generation algorithm and converged its design through optimization. Systems where estimates communicated “current” designs outperformed systems where estimates communicated “future” projections of their designs instead (p < 0.001). Varying the fraction of the population which uses each definition of an estimate varied system performance and uncertainty. Whether related to estimate definitions or more generally, miscommunication may affect system performance.


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.