We are hiring! – PhD Position on Data Science Methods Detecting Legal Issues in Decentralized Systems

Decentralised technological infrastructures (e.g. blockchains, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations and Apps (DAOs, DApps)) promise a trustworthy technological environment for a plethora of societal and business applications. However, some features and the faults of their design create significant deviations from the societal expectations embodied in institutions, laws, and ethical frameworks, e.g., DAO malfunctions, breach of data protection or financial regulation, financial fraud, and the lack of accountability of infrastructure, service developers and operators. Those deviations are potential signs of incompatibility with the existing institutional, legal, economic, and social order, which may either hinder the innovation in this space, or if growth continues uninterrupted, may lead to societally undesirable consequences.

‘How to effectively detect and overcome legal compliance issues through the technical analysis of complex techno-social systems, including decentralized ones?’

This problem has emerged as an important research challenge for law and policy in general. On the one hand, new insights are needed into how these systems are designed and operated from the perspective of their creators (computer scientists), as well as the known and unknown societal risks they pose. On the other hand, legal scholars usually lack the necessary skills and expertise to conceptualise and study techno-social systems through empirical, quantitative methods. This limits the effectiveness of legal research in the information law and policy domain, despite the recent forceful turn towards evidence-based policymaking and empirical legal studies.

This PhD research will take steps towards creating a shared understanding, vocabulary, methodology at the intersection of law and data science.


Balazs has been featured at the IEEE podcast

IEEE Blockchain Podcasts: An IEEE Future Directions Digital Studio Production

Through the IEEE Blockchain Initiative Q&A podcast series, IEEE Future Directions interviews experts in the field of blockchain across various industries. IEEE Blockchain Podcasts provides you access to the industry’s blockchain innovators, experts and enthusiasts.



Episode 2: A Conversation with Balázs Bodó, Associate Professor, Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

In this episode of the IEEE Blockchain Podcast Series, we speak with Dr. Balázs Bodó, Associate Professor, and socio-legal researcher at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam.

Listen to Episode 2 (MP3, 50 MB)

The Lexicon of Digital Cultures: Organizing Knowledge in Times of Digital Transformation

20th April 2021, IViR

The Lab – in collaboration with P2P Models (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Trust in Distributed Environments (Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, Berlin) and Blockchain Gov teams (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris) – has officially launched the Glossary of decentralised technosocial systems, a long-term collaborative project featured as a special section on the Internet Policy Review.

On the occasion of the release of the 2021 editorial, the Lab has hosted a roundtable discussion bringing together glossaries, encyclopedias or other types of projects that, through different formats and sizes, seek to systematize, organize, update and coalesce discursive fields of knowledge.

The discussion, hosted by Balázs Bodó, involved stellar speakers and projects, namely: Francesca Musiani, National Centre for Scientific Research, Abécédaire des architectures distribuées; Edward N. Zalta, Stanford University, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Hay Kranen, Wikimedia; Valeria Ferrari, University of Amsterdam, Glossary of Decentralised Technosocial Systems (Internet Policy Review); Nicolo Zingales, Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School, Glossary of Platforms Law and Policy (Internet Governance Forum); Noopur Raval, AINow Institute, A New AI Lexico.

The idea of the Glossary of Decentralised Technosocial Systems arose from the need to define terms that – while being relevant to current discussions about power of/in/over digital cultures – remain ill-defined and contested. The definition of the scope, content and format of the Glossary triggered many questions about the usefulness, feasibility, necessity of such an effort. What gives our project the “authority” to select and define terms in ways that should be accepted by a broader community of researchers? How can our glossary include multiple and diverse academic and nonacademic voices, without losing coherence and soundness? How can the tension between terminological definition and dynamism be resolved?

Image: “L’univers, l’intelligence, la science, le livre”, Paul Otlet, history-computer.com


The Lab meets the FOLLOW Project

On 9th December 2020, the Lab hosted a guest lecture by Carola Westermeier, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science (University of Amsterdam) and part of the ERC-project FOLLOW-Following the Money from Transaction to Trial, led by Prof. Marieke de Goede

Carola presented her research paper “Money is data – the platformization of financial transactions“, which brings new perspectives on the relationship between money and data and illuminates on issues deriving from the monetisation of (supposed) trust-generating infrastructures. 

The discussion highlighted many points of convergence between the research interests of IViR and the objects of investigations with which the FOLLOW Projects is concerned. The dialogue between the two teams will, therefore, continue in search of mutual inspiration and interdisciplinary research integration.

The Lab featured at the Frankfurter Allgemeine

Alexandra Giannopoulou was recently interviewed for the Frankfurter Allgemeine, on the topic of blockchain research in academia.

She discussed the European Union’s interest in blockchain research highlighting the example of decentralized identity, all within the broader challenge of trust in and through digital technologies.

Find the article online here (in German).

Balazs is giving a talk at the Asser Institute about mediated trust

On 11 June, Dr Balázs Bodó will be speaking at the Asser Institute. During this research seminar, he will be presenting his paper: ‘Mediated trust: a theoretical framework to address the trustworthiness of technological trust mediators’.

Trust is what enables the cooperation of strangers in face of risks, contingencies, and potential harm. We are going through a global crisis of trust due to globalization and digitization. On the one hand, digital technologies contribute to this crisis through their destabilizing and disruptive effects. On the other hand, they offer new ways to produce trust. In either case, digital technologies permeate and transform almost every space where trust may emerge, is produced, and used. This creates new, often unknown types of risks and contingencies, which also require trust to be overcome.

We are entering an era where trust is technologically mediated, yet what little we know about the trustworthiness of trust mediating technologies gives us no reason to trust them.

We need trust technologies we can have confidence in. To achieve that goal, we need to understand the limitations of using purely technological ways of producing trust, and upgrade or change our existing institutional logics of trust production and distrust mitigation to incorporate technological trust mediators.

This talk outlines the current crisis of trust, the challenges technological modes of trust production generate, the nature of the institutional change, and the policies which can produce trustworthy technological trust mediators.

Source: T.M.C. Asser Instituut – Events

Mediated trust

One of the new research threads of the Lab is technology mediated trust. It concerns the following simple questions:

  • how do we use technologies to produce trust and mitigate distrust in interpersonal and institutional contexts?
  • can we trust these trust technologies?

These questions are laid out in more details in a paper currently under review at New Media and Society. The draft version is available here: Mediated Trust – A Theoretical Framework to Address the Trustworthiness of Technological Trust Mediators

There is also a talk version. See and download the slides below.

Read file

Work with us: we seek social scientist to study trust in, and by technology

full call here: https://www.uva.nl/en/content/vacancies/2020/02/20-080-postdoctoral-socio-legal-research-scientist-at-ivir.html?origin=dxuSI3bDRY2CW7N9J3yPlw

As a research scientist, you’ll be working on the social and institutional aspects of trust in and by technological systems. Multiple technologies emerged to produce trust (such as global reputation systems, (self-sovereign) identity systems), or minimize the need for trust (DLTs). Trust, as produced by technical systems has many possible sources: strong cryptography, censorship resistance through decentralization, good governance, or legal legibility, certainty and compliance. Some of these trust sources, like technology governance and regulation, can complement each other. Others, such as compliance and decentralization, seem to be in contradiction. As a social scientist, you will be working with legal scholars on answering the following two questions at the intersection of trust and technology:

  • How do (decentralized) technologies produce trust or minimize the need for trust?
  • What makes these systems trustworthy?

You will answer these questions by studying various aspects of trust and trustworthiness in technological contexts.
In particular you will:

  • conduct empirical research among technology developers on the trustworthiness of technology:
    • design and implement surveys, and conduct qualitative analysis on how technology developers see the trustworthiness of technology they build and operate, and how they implement and balance different sources of trust in technological systems (system design, governance, legal compliance, etc.);
  • conduct empirical research among technology users on the topic of trust:
    • design and implement surveys among users of blockchain based systems on the issue of trust and trustworthiness;
    • conduct a qualitative analysis of the discourses around trust and DLTs;
  • work on the problem of institutional embeddedness of decentralized technical systems:   
    • conduct empirical research on how existing societal stakeholders (such as businesses, the media, various professional groups, regulators, policymakers) see the trustworthiness of decentralized technologies, and their ability to produce trust;