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Kean Birch

Kean Birch


Co-Editor, Science as Culture

Director, Institute for Technoscience & Society

Series Editor, Technoscience & Society Book Series, University of Toronto Press


PhD Planning, Oxford Brooks University
MSc Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh
MA (Honours) Sociology, University of Edinburgh

Research Keywords

Innovation; Technoscientific capitalism; Assets, assetization & rentiership; Digital & data economies; Big Tech; Finance & technoscience; Bio-economy & biofuels; Sustainability transitions.

Graduate Supervision

I supervise students in the graduate programs in Science & Technology Studies and Geography

Kean Birch

Contact Information

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

416 736 2100

Google Scholar Profile |


Research Interests

I am particularly interested in understanding technoscientific capitalism and draw on a range of perspectives from science & technology studies, economic geography, and economic sociology to study it. More specifically, my research focuses on the restructuring and transformation of the economy & financial knowledges, technoscience & technoscientific innovation, and the relationship between markets & natural environments. Currently, I am researching how different things (e.g. knowledge, personality, loyalty, etc.) are turned into assets and how economic rents are then captured from those assets - basically, in processes of assetization and rentiership.

Research Projects

SSHRC Partnership Engage (2022-2023), Principal Investigator, “Rethinking Canada's Competition Policy in the Digital Economy".

SSHRC Insight Grant (2021-2026), Co-applicant, "Ghost-management in the pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical sectors: Dynamics and implications for Canadian political economy", with PI Marc-André Gagnon (Carleton, Canada).

SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2019-2021), Principal Investigator, “The changing landscape of academic journal publishing and its impact on interdisciplinary social science fields: The case of science & technology studies (STS)”, with Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner (Leiden University, Netherlands).

SSHRC Insight Grant (2018-2023), Principal Investigator, “From entrepreneurship to rentiership: The changing dynamics of innovation in technoscientific capitalism”,

ESRC New Investigator Grant (2021-2023) Co-applicant, “Universities and unicorns: Building digital assets in the higher education industry”, with PI Janja Komljenovic (Lancaster University, UK) and Co-I Sam Sellar (Manchester Metroplitan University, UK).

SSHRC Partnership Grant (2014-2020), Co-applicant, “Adapting Canadian Work & Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change”, with PI Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2013-2015), Principal Investigator, “Transitioning from a fossil(ized) to a bio-based economy: A case study of biofuels in the Canadian context”.

SSHRC CURA Grant (2010-2015), Co-applicant, “Work in a Warming World (W3): Adapting Canadian employment and work to the challenges of climate change”, with PI Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

Research Output

Birch K. (under contract) Data Enclaves. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Scott, S. et al. (eds) (under contract) Business and Society: A Critical Introduction (2nd Edition). London: Bloomsbury.

Birch, K. and Muniesa, F. (eds) (2020) Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2019) Neoliberal Bio-economies? The Co-construction of Markets and Natures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Birch, K. (2017) A Research Agenda for Neoliberalism. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Birch, K., Peacock, M., Wellen, R., Hossein, C., Scott, S. and Salazar, A. (2017) Business and Society: A Critical Introduction. London: Zed Books.

Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J. (eds) (2016) The Handbook of Neoliberalism. London: Routledge.

Birch, K. (2016) Innovation, Regional Development and the Life Sciences: Beyond Clusters. London: Routledge.

Birch, K. (2015) We Have Never Been Neoliberal: A Manifesto for a Doomed Youth. Winchester: Zer0 Books.

Birch, K. and Mykhnenko, V. (eds) (2010) The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism: The Collapse of an Economic Order? London: Zed Books.

Birch, K. (2023) There are no markets anymore: From neoliberalism to Big Tech, State of Power 2023 Report, The Transnational Institute (3 Feb) [Open Access].

Birch, K. (2023) Reflexive expectations in innovation financing: An analysis of venture capital as a mode of valuation, Social Studies of Science 53(1): 29-48 [Open Access].

Birch, K. and Ward, C. (2022) Assetization and the 'new asset geographies', Dialogues in Human Geography [Open Access].

Kaltenbrunner, W., Birch, K., van Leeuwen, T. and Amuchastegui, M. (2022) Changing publication practices and the typification of the journal article in science & technology studies, Social Studies of Science 52(5): 758-782. [Open Access]. 

Guay, R. and Birch, K. (2022) A comparative analysis of data governance: Socio-technical imaginaries of digital personal data in the USA and EU (2008-2016), Big Data & Society 9(2): 1-13 [Open Access]. 

Kaltenbrunner, W., Birch, K. and Amuchastegui, M. (2022) Editorial work and the peer review economy of STS journals, Science, Technology, & Human Values 47(4): 670-697 [Open Access]. 

Birch, K. and Cochrane, D.T. (2022) Big Tech: Four emerging forms of digital rentiership, Science as Culture 31(1): 44-58. [Open Access] 

Birch, K., Cochrane, T. and Ward, C. (2021) Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech, Big Data & Society 8(1): 1-15 [Open Access].

Birch, K. and Cochrane, D.T. (2021) Big Tech: Four Emerging Forms of Digital RentiershipScience as Culture. [Open Access].

Birch, K., Cochrane, T. and Ward, C. (2021) Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech, Big Data & Society [Open Access].

Birch, K. (2020) Automated neoliberalism? The digital organization of markets in technoscientific capitalism, New Formations 100-101: 10-27. [Open Access]

Birch, K., Chiappetta, M. and Artyushina, A. (2020) The problem of innovation in technoscientific capitalism: Data rentiership and the policy implications of turning personal digital data into a private asset, Policy Studies 41(5): 468-487. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2020) Technoscience rent: Towards a theory of rentiership for technoscientific capitalism, Science, Technology, and Human Values 45(1): 3-33. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2018) Review essay: What is the asset condition?, European Journal of Sociology 59(3): 500-506.

Birch, K. (2017) Rethinking value in the bio-economy: Finance, assetization and the management of value, Science, Technology, and Human Values 42(3): 460-490. [Open Access]

Tim-adical Writing Collective (2017) Vulnerabilities, complicities and injustices: 'Tim-adical' actions for change in the neoliberal academy, ephemera: theory & politics in organization 17(3): 221-234. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2017) The problem of bio-concepts: Biopolitics, bio-economy and the political economy of nothing, Cultural Studies of Science Education 12: 915-927.

Özdemir, V., Dandara, C., Hekim, N., Birch, K., Springer, S., Kunej, T. and Endreny, L. (2017) Stop the spam! Conference ethics and decoding the subtext in post-truth science: What would Denis Diderot say?, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology 21(11): 658-664.

Birch, K. (2016) Socio-material systems and sustainability transitions: Integrating climate change in transport infrastructure in Ontario, Canada, Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation 34(3-4): 191-206.

Birch, K. (2016) Emergent policy imaginaries and fragmented policy frameworks in the Canadian bio-economy, Sustainability 8(10): 1-16. [Open Access]

Birch, K. and Siemiatycki, M. (2016) Neoliberalism and the geographies of marketization: The entangling of state and markets, Progress in Human Geography 40(2): 177-198.

Birch, K., Dove, E., Chiappetta, M. and Gursoy, U. (2016) Biobanks in oral health: Promises and implications of 'post-neoliberal' patterns of science and innovation, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology 20(1): 36-41.

Birch, K. (2016) Market vs. contract? The implications of contractual theories of corporate governance to the analysis of neoliberalism, ephemera: theory & politics in organization 16(1): 107-133. [Open Access]

Special Issues

Birch, K. and Ward, C. (2023) Introduction: Critical approaches to rentiership, Environment and Planning A.

Birch, K., Ward, C. and Tretter, E. (2022) Special Section Introduction: New frontiers of techno-economic rentiership, Competition and Change 26(3-4): 407-414. [Open Access]. 

Birch, K. and Bronson, K. (2022) Forum Introduction: Big Tech, Science as Culture 31(1): 1-14 [Open Access]. 

Birch, K. and Springer, S. (2019) Introduction: Peak neoliberalism? Revisiting and rethinking the concept of neoliberalism, ephemera: theory & politics in organization 19(3): 467-485. [Open Access] 

Birch, K. (2017) Introduction: Techno-economic assumptions, Science as Culture 26(4): 433-444. [Open Access] 

Calvert, K., Kedron, P., Baka, J. and Birch, K. (2017) Geographical perspectives on sociotechnical transitions and emerging bio-economies: Introduction to a special issue, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 29(5): 477-485. 

Podcasts & Radio

Interview on “Digital charter bill will do little to protect Canadians’ personal data” on Rob Breakenridge, 630 CHED and 770 CHQR (Global News) (21 Jun 2022). 

Interview on “Big Tech, little oversight”, Vancouver Coop Radio, Bulland Awaaz and the Rational, 100.5 FM (28 Feb 2022). 

Interview - “BigTech poses challenges our outdated competition laws were not designed to address” on Shaye Ganam, 630CHED and 770CHQR (Global News).  

“Ethics Café” for European Biobank Week (Nov 2021) 

Interview - “Big Tech's Impact on Society and the Debate Over Data Ownership” for The Index Podcast (Nov 2021). 

Interview - “Facebook effect & the rise of the data economy” for The Priv8 Podcast (Jul 2021) 

Lecture - “The Rise of Technoscientific Capitalism” for Crash Course Economics Podcast (Apr 2021). 

Interview - “Managed Spaces” for Ideal Spaces Podcast (Oct 2020). 

Newspaper & Other Opeds

Birch, K. (2022) Digital charter bill will do little to protect Canadians' personal data, National Post (20 Jun). 

Birch, K. (2022) The Online News Act doesn’t solve the news media’s reliance on Big Tech, Policy Options (26 May). 

Birch, K. (2022) Competition is important — in the digital sphere and in the debate over competition policy, National Post (11 Apr). 

Birch, K. (2022) Big Tech, little oversight, Policy Options (23 Feb). 

Birch, K. (2022) The assetization of social life, Bot Populi (19 Jan). 

Birch, K. (2022) Opinion: We need to get beyond the status quo in regulating Big Tech in Canada, National Post (10 Jan). 

Birch, K. (2021) Opinion: Big Tech poses challenges our outdated competition laws were not designed to address, Financial Post (29 Nov). 

Birch, K. (2021) Opinion: This is how we could tame Big Tech, Toronto Star (16 June). 

Birch, K., Cochrane, D.T. and Ward, C. (2021) What kind of asset is our personal data?, The FinReg Blog, School of Law, Duke University (15th June). 

Birch, K. (2021) We need to change the faculty hiring process, University Affairs (6 April). 

Birch, K. (2020) Opinion: Ottawa’s post-hoc privacy plan still leaves the power with Big Tech, The Globe and Mail – Report on Business (19 November). 

Birch, K. (2020) Opinion: This is how Canada should deal with Big Tech, Toronto Star (13 October). 

Birch, K. (2020) Opinion: What can Canada learn from the US Congressional hearing on Big Tech monopolies?, Toronto Star (10 August). 

Birch, K. (2020) Opinion: Artificial intelligence doesn’t need ‘agile’ governance, it needs firm regulation, Toronto Star (13 January). 

Birch, K. (2020) On data rentiership in ‘Big Tech’: Why Silicon Valley might not be the innovation model we're looking for, Discover Society (8 January). 

Birch, K. (2020) Opinion: The big problem with housing affordability? Real estate is still a valuable asset, The Globe and Mail – Report on Business (1 January). 

Birch, K. (2019) Personal data isn’t the ‘new oil’, it’s a way to manipulate capitalism, The Conversation (5 November). 

Birch, K. (2019) Opinion: Canada has taken a perilous road to an asset-based economy, The Globe and Mail – Report on Business (24 September). 

Birch, K. (2019) Opinion: Intellectual property might not be the best way to drive Canada’s future economy, The Globe and Mail – Report on Business (5 August). 

Birch, K. (2019) Opinion: Five reasons Canada’s Digital Charter will be a bust before it even gets going, The Globe and Mail – Report on Business (24 May). 

Birch, K. (2018) Opinion: We must consider what can happen if our personal data become a private asset, The Globe and Mail – Report on Business (26 November). 

Birch, K. (2017) What exactly is neoliberalism?, The Conversation (2 November). 

Recognition & Awards

  • Editorial Board Member, Progress in Economic Geography (2022-now)
  • Editorial Board Member, Humanities & Social Sciences Communications (2022-now)
  • Editorial Board Member, Social Epistemology (2020-now)
  • Editorial Board Member, Science, Technology & Human Values (2018-now)
  • Editorial Board Member, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology (2014-now)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Munich Center for Technology in Society/Department of STS, Technical University Munich (2019-now)
  • Visiting Scholar, Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School (2020)
  • Visiting Scholar, Department of Business & Politics, Copenhagen Business School (2017)
  • Visiting Professor, Munich Center for Technology in Society, Technical University of Munich (2017)
  • #1 Most Cited Article (published last 3 years), Science, Technology, & Human Values
  • #1 Most Cited Article (published last 3 years), Policy Studies
  • Highly Cited Papers, Web of Science, Top 1% Most Cited Worldwide
  • At-large Board Member, AAG Economic Geography Specialty Group (2018-2019)


Course CodeTitle
EUC2110 3.0Geographies of Global Political Economy and Power
EUC3150 3.0Technological Worlds: Geographies of Digital Capitalism
EUC4220 3.0Neoliberal Geographies
STS6005 3.0Research Cluster: Technoscientific Injustices
STS6006 3.0Digital Technoscience
GEOG5025 3.0Research Design and Formulation in Human Geography