David Stark

David Stark

Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology
+1 212 854 3972
701C Knox
Office Hours: 
Wednesdays 4:15-6:15
Areas of Interest: 
Economic Sociology, Sociology of Innovation, Organizations, Valuation, Democratization,

Ph.D., Harvard, 1982

Biographical Note: 

David Stark is Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology at Columbia University where he directs the Center on Organizational Innovation. In his recent book, The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life (Princeton University Press, 2009), Stark studies how organizations and their members search for what is valuable. Dissonance – disagreement about the principles of worth – can lead to discovery. To study the organizational basis for innovation, he has carried out ethnographic field research in Hungarian factories before and after 1989, in new media start-ups in Manhattan before and after the dot.com crash, and in a World Financial Center trading room before and after the attack on September 11th.

Stark’s current research employs large datasets to study the social sources of creativity. Supported by a major grant from the National Science Foundation (with former PhD student and Co-PI Balazs Vedres), his research team is developing network analytic methods to examine the historical structures whereby teams assemble, disassemble, and resassemble. They are currently analyzing data on every commercially released video game (some 28,000 video games involving an estimated 310,000 unique invididuals) and approximately 40,000 jazz recording sessions involving some 400,000 musicians).  With Columbia PhD student Mathijs de Vaan they recently published "Game Changer: The Topology of Creativity" in the American Journal of Sociology (Nov. 2015).

Stark is also working at the intersection of observation theory and network analysis to study how valuation is shaped by networks of attention.  A lab experimental study with Sheen Levine and other co-authors, "Ethnic Diversity Deflates Price Bubbles," appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Dec 2014). 

Supported by another major grant from NSF, with Co-PI Matteo Prato, his research team is studying some 10 million pairs of secruities analysts’ estimates on US publicly listed firms’ earning per shares. A recent paper, “Observing Finance as a Network of Observations” appears in Sociologica (September 2013). 

With Balazs Vedres, Stark has been conducting historical network analyis. Papers from this project include: “Structural Folds” (American Journal of Sociology, 2010); “Social Times of Network Spaces” (AJS, 2006); and “Political Holes in the Economy” (American Sociological Review, 2012).

With another former student, Daniel Beunza, Stark has been working on the social studies of finance. Their recent papers include: "From Dissonance to Resonance: Cognitive Interdependence in Quantitative Finance” (Economy and Society, 2012); and “Tools of the Trade: The Socio-Technology of Arbitrage in a Wall Street Trading Room” (Industrial and Corporate Change 2004).

Stark collaborated with art photographer Nancy Warner to publish This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains (Columbia University Press, 2014).  He recently co-edited Moments of Valuation: Exploring Sites of Dissonance (Oxford University Press, 2015). 

Other research addresses innovations in the public sphere including, for example, “PowerPoint in Public: Digital Technologies and the New Morphology of Demonstration" (with Verena Paravel) Theory, Culture & Society 2008; "Sociotechnologies of Assembly" (with Monique Girard) in Governance and Information: The Rewiring of Governing and Deliberation in the 21st Century, 2007; and “Rooted Transnational Publics: Integrating Foreign Ties and Civic Activism” (with Balazs Vedres and Laszlo Bruszt) Theory and Society 2006.

Stark was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2002 and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the École normale supérieure de Cachan in 2013. He has been a visiting fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto; the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne; the Copenhagen Business School; the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study; the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City; the Institute of Advanced Study in Durham, UK; the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand; the European University Institute in Florence; the Institute for Advanced Study/Collegium Budapest; the Center for the Social Sciences in Berlin; and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.