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About Me

I´m a PhD Researcher at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in Florence. Previously I studied at the Universities of Augsburg, Oslo, Frankfurt and Toronto. I´m intellectually quite “promiscuous”, having worked on German foreign policy during the Euro crisis, the relationship between Germany and its former colony Namibia, the relevance of recent findings in evolutionary anthropology and moral psychology for the social sciences, the biographical differences between those members of the Forbes 400 that have made their money with digital technologies and those who haven´t, and, lastly, the role of morality in economic life.

Current Research Projects

More recently, I have been working on a number of more or less related research project that revolve around the political economy of digitalization. In my dissertation, I´m looking at political responses to digitalization, mainly from a comparative perspective. In particular, I´m interested in i) the regulation of digital platforms that intermediate labor such as Uber; ii) the differences in the extent to which governments invest in what I call digital goods, i.e. the things that make individuals and firms thrive in a digital economy (e.g. education, R&D, broadband, e-government, etc), and iii) the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation in different European countries.

I also have a project (with Moritz Laurer) that looks at why the General Data Protection Regulation was adopted in the first place, despite resistance of many member states and heavy-handed lobbying by well-informed and deep-pocketed business groups, using process tracing and discourse network analysis. We argue and show empirically how institutional legacies triggered and structured the policy-making process, and how the Snoweden revelations saved the GDPR from being watered down.

Another project (with Oliver Nachtwey) looks at digitalization from a business perspective, trying to get a grasp of the “spirit of digital capitalism”, that is, the sets of normative beliefs that motivate, legitimate and orient the actions of Silicon Valley (and other digital) entrepreneurs, using content analysis and supervised learning techniques on large text corpora.

Yet another project (with Matteo Marenco) uses various text-as-data approaches on a novel dataset of text corpora to analyse how countries talk about the digital transformation of work, and what they talk about when they talk about this. The idea is that different institutional and cultural legacies should not only affect the way countries respond to digitalization but also the way they perceive and conceive it in the first place – in other words, digitaliaztion is not only not the same everywhere, it might not even be the same problem everywhere.

A final project (with Anton Hemerijck and Maciej Sobocinski) is more theoretical and even programmatic in nature and asks which tools institutional scholars should use to make sense of the politics of high-uncertainty, transformative change.

Methodologically, I try to live by William Sewell’s dictum that social science “will advance more surely by allowing intellectual problems to determine its methods than by allowing methods to determine its intellectual problems.” Accordingly, I use a variety of both qualitative and quantitative methods, from process tracing to discourse network analysis and various forms of automated text analysis to regression models.

One of the things I have been grappling with for a long time, theoretically and methodologically, is how ideas, in Max Weber’s words, can become “effective forces in history.” For too long, ideas have been “primary exhibits for the doctrine that what is important to study cannot be measured and that what can be measured is not important to study” (Philip Converse). I believe that by carefully conceptualizing ideas and their relationship to interests and institutions, and by using old and new methodological tools in creative ways, we can advance the ideational agenda and make ideas an important puzzle piece in many social scientific explanations.

Beyond academia

Bismarck once said that his passions resemble the trout in his pond: one eats up the other until there remains only one fat old trout. Thus his passionate love for politics has devoured all his other passions. To make sure that my passion for the social sciences does not get “fatter” than it already is, I try to cultivate my other passions as well, from hiking to playing board and card games to learning another vegetarian recipe once in a while.