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Thursday, October 11 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
Platforms as the new infrastructure? Interrogating the “infrastructure turn” in Internet studies

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A decade of scholarship aggregated under the umbrella term of “platform studies” has described the properties of digital platforms, how they work, and the challenges they create for social life. Key authors in this field have highlighted the discursive positioning of platforms (Gillespie 2010), the strategic value of programmability (Helmond 2015), their generativity (Zittrain 2008) and even performativity (van Dijck and Poell 2013), as well as their reliance on direct or indirect user’s participation (Langlois and Elmer 2013).

In this roundtable, we push this conversation on step further with the provocative statement that digital platforms constitute the new infrastructure that sustain our digital life. For more than ten years, tech companies have relied on the properties of platform described above to “disrupt” multiple sectors. However, in the current monopolistic and competitive digital economy, these tech companies increasingly rely on the properties of another configuration—scale, ubiquity, criticality, long term sustainability and reliability—typically associated with infrastructures (Hughes, 1986; Bowker and Star, 2000; Edwards, 2010).

This roundtable discusses this change of status for platforms and its social consequences. It brings together three junior researchers who investigate this infrastructural evolution of platforms, and who all contributed to the special issue “Media Infrastructures: from Pipes to Platforms” currently edited for Media, Culture & Society (publication scheduled for October 2018). Rahul Mukherjee investigates the infrastructural imaginary of platforms in India; David Nieborg interrogates the platformization of the web through app ecosystems; Fenwick McKelvey proposes the concept of parasite to theorize this takeover of platforms on existing infrastructures. Together, they will engage in a dialogue with José van Dijck and Jennifer Holt, who have both investigated extensively the topics of platforms and infrastructures, and who will provide a contextualisation of this “infrastructure turn” in platform and Internet studies.

avatar for José van Dijck

José van Dijck

Professorin für Medienwissenschaften, Universität Utrecht
José van Dijck ist Professorin für Medienwissenschaften an der Universität Utrecht. Ihr Forschungsschwerpunkt liegt auf der digitalen Gesellschaft, wobei sie sich mit Medientheorien, Medien- und Kommunikationstechnologien, Sozialen Medien und der digitalen Kultur beschäftigt... Read More →
avatar for David Nieborg

David Nieborg

Asst. Professor, University of Toronto

Thursday October 11, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 8