Oliver Ngai Keung Chan

I am an Assistant Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. My areas of interest include:

  • Critical data studies
  • Algorithms and quantification
  • Platform governance
  • Gig economy
  • Metric culture
  • Digital labor
  • Social media surveillance

My research focuses on the socio-technical imaginaries and practices of platforms and their algorithmic systems. I am particularly interested in the emerging forms of governance by and of platforms. My research has been published in such journals as New Media & Society, Information, Communication, & Society, Big Data & Society Social Movement Studies, Communication, Culture & Critique, Surveillance & Society, Media and Communication, and Space and Culture, among others.

Broadly situated at the intersection of critical data studies and the sociology of work, much of my research has empirically examined governance by platforms. Specifically, I study how algorithms and digital data transform work practices in the gig economy. This line of my research investigates how precarious workers encounter, interpret, and manage various forms of algorithmic metrics (e.g., ratings, rankings, and reviews) as part of their daily work practices.

Another line of my research focuses on the governance of platforms. Often portrayed as powerful and disruptive entities, platforms seemingly always succeed in reorganizing the economic sectors they enter and disrupting existing regulatory infrastructure. My research hopes to take a step back to consider (1) how platforms have gained and consolidated political power over time; and (2) how platforms’ political playbooks work—and perhaps more importantly—fail to work in different regulatory regimes.

Alongside my primary program of research, I am also interested in exploring the socio-technical imaginaries and practices surrounding datafication in other social settings. For instance, I have studied how emerging adults anticipated and responded to the continuous monitoring of social institutions on social media; how Wired articulated the socio-technical visions of online ratings over time; and how the state actors could rely upon relational data networks for demobilizing connective action. As such, my research examines the reconfiguration of social relations and governance in today’s datafied societies.

My recent projects include a multi-case study of gig workers’ experiences of algorithmic metrics across a range of geographically tethered gig work platforms; a comparative study of platform power across labor platforms in Hong Kong and Taiwan; a mixed-methods study of TikTok’s evolution (with Chris Chao Su and Alexis Shore; and an archiving project related to platform policies in Chinese societies.

I received my Ph.D. in Communication at Cornell University and M.Phil. in Communication and B.S.Sc. in Government and Public Administration from The Chinese University of Hong Kong.