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Digital Thursday - Thomas Poell: "The platform society"

When:Th 11-04-2019 15:00 - 16:30
Where:Exposition room, Harmoniegebouw

The Centre for Digital Humanities' Digital Thursdays are a series of presentations, activities, and debates that showcases interesting research by a broad range of Digital Humanities scholars. On 11 April, Dr Thomas Poell will give a presentation titled "The platform society". You are cordially invited to attend.


Individuals all over the world can use Airbnb to rent an apartment in a foreign city, check Coursera to find a course on statistics, join PatientsLikeMe to exchange information about one's disease, hail a cab using Uber, or read the news through Facebook's Instant Articles. The promise of connective platforms is that they offer personalized services and contribute to innovation and economic growth, while bypassing cumbersome institutional or industrial overhead.

Reflecting on The Platform Society (Van Dijck, Poell and De Waal 2018), Thomas Poell offers a comprehensive analysis of a connective world where platforms have penetrated the heart of societies-disrupting markets and labor relations, circumventing institutions, transforming social and civic practices and affecting democratic processes. The lecture questions what role online platforms play in the organization of Western societies. How do platform mechanisms work and to what effect are they deployed? How do these mechanisms lead to the reorganization of specific economic sectors, such as news, urban transport, and education? And, how can platforms be governed in correspondence with key public values and benefit the public good?

The lecture analyzes the struggles between competing ideological systems and contesting societal actors-market, government and civil society-raising the issue of who is or should be responsible for anchoring public values and the common good in a platform society. Each struggle highlights local dimensions, for instance fights over regulation between platforms and city governments, but also addresses the level of the platform ecosystem where power clashes between global markets and (supra-)national governments take place.

About the speaker

Dr T. Poell

Thomas Poell is Senior Lecturer in New Media & Digital Culture, Programme Director of the Research Master Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, and vice-director of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies. His research is focused on digital platforms and the transformation of public communication around the globe. He has published on social media and popular protest in Canada, Egypt, Tunisia, India, and China, as well as on the role of these media in the development of new forms of journalism. He co-edited The Sage Handbook of Social Media (Sage, 2018) and co-authored The Platform Society (OUP, 2018).