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Accessing regulated digital infrastructures: a case study of the UK's retail payment infrastructure

Ambagahawita, Kanchana (2022) Accessing regulated digital infrastructures: a case study of the UK's retail payment infrastructure. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004498


This research examines how heterogeneous actors gain access to regulated digital infrastructures. As industries, businesses and customers increasingly adopt digital means, markets can shift to industry infrastructure. Market infrastructures are often regulated to ensure service quality and are dominated by incumbents due to high entry barriers. Resolving tensions between heterogeneous actors of digital platforms has been studied; however, there is a dearth of understanding of how the social-technical complexities of regulated digital infrastructure are resolved. In this research, I conducted an in-depth study of the UK’s real-time retail payment infrastructure and how third-party service providers, Fintechs, gained access to the infrastructure. The high level of heterogeneous actors, both at the infrastructure level and externally at the regulatory and policy levels, provided a rich context to explore this issue. I draw on Pickering’s theoretical lens of the Mangle of Practice and subsequent research extending it to understand how sociotechnical resistances emanating from interactions of the material agency of the legacy heavy systems, disciplinary agency arising from the need to maintain financial system stability and agency of heterogeneous actors are accommodated to reach different goals of actors. The findings indicate the overwhelming influence of disciplinary agency over the agencies of all other actors and elements. Thus resulting in processes of recursive tuning of digital infrastructure rules to balance innovation and competition while continuously maintaining system stability. Further, the presence of resistances creates new classes of actors and services that tune the resistances for the Fintechs, enabling them to reach their original or modified goals. Further, the occasional regulatory triggers imposed by policy and macro regulatory levels on the incumbents resulted in the infrastructure being remodelled for new goals after the triggers. This pattern thus makes the evolution of the infrastructure less organic and more administered.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Kanchana Ambagahawita
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Sorensen, Carsten and Estrin, Saul

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