David B Nieborg

David B Nieborg
University of Toronto | U of T · iSchool Institute

PhD

About

65
Publications
44,429
Reads
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1,655
Citations
Introduction
I am an Associate Professor in Media Studies at the University of Toronto. I teach at the Dep. of Arts, Culture and Media (UofT Scarborough) and at the Faculty of Information (iSchool). My past affiliations include the University of Amsterdam, MIT, Queensland University of Technology, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. My current research projects focus on the political economy of platform markets, app studies, the game industry, and games journalism.
Additional affiliations
August 2013 - present
University of Amsterdam
Position
  • PostDoc Position

Publications

Publications (65)
Article
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'Collaborative culture', 'mass creativity' and 'co-creation' appear to be contagious buzzwords that are rapidly infecting economic and cultural discourse on Web 2.0. Allegedly, peer production models will replace opaque, top-down business models, yielding to transparent, democratic structures where power is in the shared hands of responsible compan...
Article
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Facebook's usage has reached a point that the platform's infrastructural ambitions are to be taken very seriously. To understand the company's evolution in the age of mobile media, we critically engage with the political economy of platformization. This article puts forward a conceptual framework and methodological apparatus to study Facebook's eco...
Article
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This article interrogates Dyer-Witheford and De Peuter’s Games of Empire. Since its publication in 2009, the game industry evolved significantly, adding billions of players, dollars, and devices. One of the driving forces of this transformation has been the global diffusion of mobile media. This raises the question: Do mobile platforms and the app...
Book
The widespread uptake of digital platforms – from YouTube and Instagram to Twitch and TikTok – is reconfiguring cultural production in profound, complex, and highly uneven ways. Longstanding media industries are experiencing tremendous upheaval, while new industrial formations – live-streaming, social media influencing, and podcasting, among others...
Article
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This article develops an analytical framework to examine the contingent power relations between news organizations and platforms. Eschewing one-sided, monolithic perspectives on platform dominance, we instead theorize power as relational. From this perspective, we observe important variations in news organizations’ degree of platform in/dependence....
Article
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El presente artículo contextualiza, define y operativiza el concepto de plataformización. A partir de reflexiones sobre las plataformas desde diversas perspectivas académicas ⎯los estudios de software, la crítica de la economía política, los estudios empresariales y los estudios culturales⎯ desarrolla un enfoque integral para este proceso. La plata...
Article
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Across cultures and contexts, digital platforms like YouTube, TikTok/Douyin, WeChat, and Spotify are fundamentally reshaping both the processes and products of cultural production—from music and news to entertainment and advertising. But, despite considerable attention to the perverse power of algorithms in various spheres of social and economic li...
Article
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This article investigates the ways content producers, marketers, and other promotional stakeholders work to optimize cultural goods and services for platform-dependent production, distribution, and monetization. We are particularly interested in how content creators find novel ways to work within, around, and even against platform politics and poli...
Article
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Social casino apps are an emergent genre in the app economy that sits at the intersection of three different industries: casino gambling, freemium mobile games, and social media platforms. This institutional position has implications for the social casino app's political economy and culture of consumption. We argue that social casino apps are repre...
Article
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In this paper, we introduce the notion of production platforms by exploring the political economy of the real-time animation platform Unity by Unity Technologies. Contributing to the debate on the ‘platformization of cultural production’ by examining the penetration of Unity’s economic, infrastructural, and governance extensions beyond its platform...
Article
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The panel will retrospectively evaluate the significance of the seminal text Games of Empire (2009) for new media and game studies, reflecting on the contribution of autonomous Marxism to the study of digital culture today, as well as the methodological move it performed in tracing continuities and discontinuities between sites of production and pl...
Article
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This introduction to the second special collection of articles on the platformization of the cultural industries foregrounds research methods and practices. Drawing from the 12 articles included in this collection, as well as the 14 articles published in the first collection, we identify commonalities in approaches, consistencies in traditions, and...
Article
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This article investigates the public confessions of a small group of ex-Facebook employees, investors, and founders who express regret helping to build the social media platform. Prompted by Facebook’s role in the 2016 United States elections and pointing to the platform’s unintended consequences, the confessions are more than formal admissions of...
Article
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Multi-sided platforms such as Apple’s App Store and Valve’s Steam become increasingly dominant when more end users and complement producers join their ecosystems. Despite their importance to a platform’s overall success, however, we know little about complement producers and how they are affected by a platform’s dominance trajectory: How does a pla...
Article
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To critically engage with the political economy of platformization, this article builds on the concepts of platform capitalism and platform imperialism to situate platforms within wider historical, economic, and spatial trajectories. To investigate if platformization leads to the geographical redistribution of capital and power, we draw on the Cana...
Article
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This paper offers an analytical framework to critically examine the power relations that structure the online platform ecosystem. Following a relational understanding of power, it focuses on the connections between the five leading platform corporations - Alphabet-Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft (GAFAM) - and the many other digital p...
Article
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This article contextualises, defines, and operationalises the concept of platformisation. Drawing insights from different scholarly perspectives on platforms-software studies, critical political economy, business studies, and cultural studies-it develops a comprehensive approach to this process. Platformisation is defined as the penetration of infr...
Article
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This paper examines how platform power is operationalized in the specific case of the iOS App Store. We take a first step in developing an analytical framework that critically examines the infrastructural power relations that constitute online platform ecosystems. Building on a relational understanding of power, we propose an analytical vocabulary...
Article
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In this special issue editorial, we introduce a research agenda for empirical app studies. First, we introduce the three main strands of scholarship that have engaged with (mobile) apps and infrastructures so far. This enables us to position the contributions to this special issue at the cutting edge of the research on apps and infrastructures. We...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper examines how platform power is operationalized in the specific case of app stores. We take a first step in developing an analytical framework that critically examines the infrastructural power relations that constitute online platform ecosystems. This involves distinguishing among different levels of platform ecosystem analysis.
Article
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The rise of contemporary platforms—from GAFAM in the West to the “three kingdoms” of the Chinese Internet—is reconfiguring the production, distribution, and monetization of cultural content in staggering and complex ways. Given the nature and extent of these transformations, how can we systematically examine the platformization of cultural producti...
Article
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This article addresses the problem of platform power by probing current regulatory frameworks' basic assumptions about how tech firms operate in digital ecosystems. Platform power is generally assessed in terms of economic markets in which individual corporate actors harness technological innovations to compete fairly, thereby maximising consumer w...
Article
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This commentary discusses the political economy of apps. The authors found that Canadian-made game apps are notably absent in the Canadian App Store. This should be both worrying and surprising, as Canada has a relatively sizable game industry. While policy conversations on digital transformation focus on emerging technology, the authors point towa...
Article
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The purpose of this article is to operationalise an evolutionary perspective on the history of social media and to trace Facebook’s evolution from a social networking site to a “platform-as-infrastructure”. Social media platforms such as Facebook change constantly on the level of their platform architectures, interfaces, governance frameworks, and...
Chapter
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Making Media uncovers what it means and what it takes to make media, focusing on the lived experience of media professionals within the global media, including rich case studies of the main media industries and professions: television, journalism, social media entertainment, advertising and public relations, digital games, and music. This carefully...
Data
This data set is from the App Imperialism research project conducted by the App Studies Initiative researchers at the University of Toronto. To critically engage with the political economy of platformization, this data set contributes to research on the concepts of platform capitalism and platform imperialism to situate platforms within wider histo...
Article
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In this paper, we introduce the notion of app imperialism by exploring the political economy of the Canadian iOS App Store. Building on Dal Yong Jin's concept of "platform imperialism", we argue that US companies dominate global app stores through the systematic acquisition of capital resources. App imperialism marks the outsized economic footprint...
Preprint
Full-text available
This article explores how the political economy of the cultural industries changes through platformization: the penetration of economic and infrastructural extensions of online platforms into the web, affecting the production, distribution, and circulation of cultural content. It pursues this investigation in critical dialogue with current research...
Chapter
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Nieborg and Foxman discuss the event known as Gamergate, a niche misogynistic online movement primarily targeting female game developers and critics. Drawing on both discourse and content analyses of a corpus of U.S. news publications, this chapter focuses on how Gamergate events were “mainstreamed,” or normalized and subsequently cited by mainstre...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This panel focuses on an emerging set of techno-economic relations reshaping cultural production and networked publics. In a growing number of industry segments—from journalism to games and from music to video and fashion—cultural entrepreneurs are finding audiences and advertisers on and via digital platforms. In response, they are reorienting the...
Conference Paper
Social media platform–industry partnerships are essential to understanding the politics and economics of social data circulating among platforms and third parties. Using Facebook as a case study, this paper develops a novel methodology for empirically surveying the historical dynamics of social media industry partnerships and partner programs. Face...
Chapter
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The global diffusion of mobile devices—smartphones and tablets—has fundamentally changed the way consumers interact with brands, and vice-versa, how companies are using marketing strategies to position their products and services. On an average day, US consumers spend more time using mobile apps, than they watch television. Tellingly, the two major...
Chapter
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Nieborg and de Kloet surveys the expansion of the game industry in Europe and argue that what binds national game industries within the European Union is cooperation on a cultural and policy level. The chapter shows government’s creative-industry policies have played a vital role in the industry’s ascendance. Numerous government-issued reports have...
Article
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It's as tough a time as ever for game critics, who seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place—an industry that acts as gatekeepers to most of the information they cover and an increasingly combative readership. Because of these tensions, an exploratory study was conducted first of the emergence of game criticism and the historical role of cri...
Chapter
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Social, casual and mobile games, played on devices such as smartphones, tablets, or PCs and accessed through online social networks, have become extremely popular, and are changing the ways in which games are designed, understood, and played. These games have sparked a revolution as more people from a broader demographic than ever play games, shift...
Article
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The goal of this article is to add a complementary perspective to the study of social network sites by surveying how the political economy of social media platforms relates to the structure of free-to-play games in their commodity form. Drawing on the theory of multisided markets and critical political economy, this article surveys the political ec...
Article
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This paper draws on critical political economic theory to discuss the implications of the dominant mode of production and circulation of “Triple-A” or blockbuster console games. It is argued that the seventh generation Triple-A game is a highly standardized cultural commodity giving way to two distinctive "formatting strategies", which taken togeth...
Thesis
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The aim of this book is to deconstruct, theorize and critique the development and circulation of console games. With the launch of the Xbox 360 (2005) and the Playstation 3 (2006), the advent of the seventh console cycle afforded a new type of cultural commodity: The 'next gen' Triple-A videogame. It is argued that the Triple-A game's commodity for...
Article
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Drawing on media economics and critical theory and political economy, this paper will provide a critical reading of the blockbuster video game. While blockbuster games are considered to be highly innovative by constantly pushing technological boundaries, they are also considered to be formulaic and its themes and game mechanics fairly predictable....
Article
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This paper will contextualize the occupational ideology of game journalism by providing a brief introduction to the political economy of game publications. The role of various industry actors (e.g. game publishers, PR agents and brand managers) will be positioned against those of the peripheral industry (e.g. critics, journalists, and editors). Bec...
Article
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In this introduction, game studies is argued to be a force of innovation for cultural studies. While game studies, as is has developed over the last 10 years, fits well within cultural studies' methodology and theory, it does more than benefit from cultural studies as a 'mother discipline'. Game studies proves itself to be a strong force, especiall...
Article
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This article seeks to make the relationship between non-market game developers (modders) and the game developer company explicit through game technology. It investigates a particular type of modding, i.e. total conversion mod teams, whose organization can be said to conform to the high-risk, technologically-advanced, capital-intensive, proprietary...
Article
Full-text available
In this introduction, game studies is argued to be a force of innovation for cultural studies. While game studies, as it has developed over the last 10 years, fits well within cultural studies' methodology and theory, it does more than benefit from cultural studies as a 'mother discipline'. Game studies proves itself to be a strong force, especiall...
Chapter
The use of digital games for the promotion of goods and services is becoming more popular with the maturing and penetration of the medium. This chapter analyzes the use of advertisement in games and seeks to answer in which way brands are integrated in interactive play. The branding of virtual worlds offers a completely new range of opportunities f...
Chapter
The use of digital games for the promotion of goods and services is becoming more popular with the maturing and penetration of the medium. This chapter analyzes the use of advertisement in games and seeks to answer in which way brands are integrated in interactive play. The branding of virtual worlds offers a completely new range of opportunities f...
Chapter
Full-text available
The aim of this paper is to deepen the understanding of the representation and simulation of modern war in commercial PC-games within the context of the military- entertainment complex. The game America's Army, developed by the U.S. Army, will be used as a case study to explore the use of ingame propaganda. America's Army is firmly grounded in the...
Article
Full-text available
The primary aim of this paper is to contribute to t he understanding of the different modalities of virtual battlegrounds, i.e. maps, in multiplayer First Person Shooter games. The frequent usage of such games has consequences for thinking about games and simulations and the use of these interactive texts for advertisement, education, analysis and...
Article
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This paper analyses the official U.S. Army PC-game, America's Army, against the backdrop of the ongoing war on terror and the military-entertainment complex. It considers the dual role of the game as a recruiting tool and a propaganda instrument. The expansion of the military-entertainment complex has significant consequences for the militarisation...
Chapter
Full-text available
The use of digital games for the promotion of goods and services is becoming more popular with the maturing and penetration of the medium. This chapter analyzes the use of advertisement in games and seeks to answer in which way brands are integrated in interactive play. The branding of virtual worlds offers a completely new range of opportunities f...
Technical Report
Full-text available
In 2003 startte een twee jaar durend EMP-project met als doel het vinden van een optimale cursusstructuur om studenten te leren debatteren over de nieuwe media en de digitale cultuur. Het doel in het eerste projectjaar was om de vaardigheid van face-to-face debatteren beter in te zetten in de cursus 'Het actuele debat van de nieuwe media en digital...
Technical Report
Full-text available
In 2003 startte een twee jaar durend EMP-project1 met als doel het vinden van een optimale cursusstructuur om studenten te leren debatteren over de nieuwe media en de digitale cultuur. Het doel in het eerste projectjaar was om de vaardigheid van face-to-face debatteren beter in te zetten in de cursus 'Het actuele debat van de nieuwe media en digita...

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Projects

Projects (4)
Project
The development and rapid uptake of digital platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitch, and WeChat is profoundly reconfiguring cultural production around the globe. Recent transformations in the cultural industries are staggering: longstanding—or “legacy”—organizations are experiencing tremendous upheaval while new industrial formations—live-streaming, social media influencing, and podcasting, to name a few—are emerging and evolving at a breakneck speed. This project aims to make sense of these widespread changes through the lens of platformization, a process which involves the penetration of institutional extensions of platforms in the cultural industries, as well as the organization of cultural practices around such platforms.
Project
While it is clear that major platform companies have accrued unprecedented financial resources, political cloud, technological expertise, and valuable data, it has not yet been systematically examined how they exert power. This project develops such an examination by offering an analytical framework to critically examine the infrastructural power relations that structure the online platform ecosystem.