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The Platformization of the Web: Making Web Data Platform Ready

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Abstract

In this article, I inquire into Facebook’s development as a platform by situating it within the transformation of social network sites into social media platforms. I explore this shift with a historical perspective on, what I refer to as, platformization, or the rise of the platform as the dominant infrastructural and economic model of the social web and its consequences. Platformization entails the extension of social media platforms into the rest of the web and their drive to make external web data “platform ready.” The specific technological architecture and ontological distinctiveness of platforms will be examined by taking their programmability into account. I position platformization as a form of platform critique that inquires into the dynamics of the decentralization of platform features and the recentralization of “platform ready” data as a way to examine the consequences of the programmability of social media platforms for the web.
Social Media + Society
July-December 2015: 1 –11
© The Author(s) 2015
DOI: 10.1177/2056305115603080
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SI: Culture Digitally
On 15 August 2006, Facebook introduced the Facebook
Development Platform, giving third-party developers access
to Facebook users’ profiles, friends, photos, and events to
extend the “Facebook experience” into external applications
(Fetterman, 2006)—thereby turning Facebook into a devel-
oper environment. A year later, at the first f8 Developer
Conference, Facebook launched Facebook Platform, offi-
cially marking Facebook’s advancement as a platform.
Facebook Platform provides developers with a set of tools
for sending and retrieving data from and to Facebook and a
deep integration with Facebook’s “social graph,” a mapping
of the connections between people and objects, for building
applications (Geminder, 2007; Hicks, 2010).
In this article, I inquire into Facebook’s development as a
platform by situating it within the transformation of social
network sites into social media platforms. I situate this “plat-
formization,” or the rise of the platform as the dominant
infrastructural and economic model of the social web and its
consequences, in its historical context. Platformization
entails the extension of social media platforms into the rest
of the web and their drive to make external web data “plat-
form ready.” The specific technological architecture and
ontological distinctiveness of platforms will be examined by
taking one aspect of their medium-specificity (Rogers,
2013), their programmability, into account. In doing so, I fol-
low Langlois, McKelvey, et al.’s (2009) call for a “platform-
based perspective,” which, according to Fenwick McKelvey
(2011), should critically inquire into the programmability of
platforms. Examining the decentralization of platform fea-
tures into the web and the recentralization of platform ready
data is a way to examine the consequences of the program-
mability of social media platforms for the web.
The new architectural model of the platform explicitly
opens up websites by enabling their programmability with a
software interface, an Application Programming Interface
(API), for third parties. To comprehend this programmatic
access, I draw on Alan Liu’s (2004) notion of “data pours” to
conceptualize platforms as pouring data systems that set up
data channels to enable data flows with third parties. These
data pours not only set up channels for data flows between
social media platforms and third parties but also function as
data channels to make external web data platform ready.
Material–Technical Perspective on
Social Media Platforms
The term “platform” has become the dominant concept for
social media companies for positioning themselves in the
603080SMSXXX10.1177/2056305115603080Social Media + SocietyHelmond
research-article2015
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Corresponding Author:
Anne Helmond, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam,
Turfdraagsterpad 9, 1012 XT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Email: a.helmond@uva.nl
The Platformization of the Web:
Making Web Data Platform Ready
Anne Helmond
Abstract
In this article, I inquire into Facebook’s development as a platform by situating it within the transformation of social network
sites into social media platforms. I explore this shift with a historical perspective on, what I refer to as, platformization,
or the rise of the platform as the dominant infrastructural and economic model of the social web and its consequences.
Platformization entails the extension of social media platforms into the rest of the web and their drive to make external web
data “platform ready.” The specific technological architecture and ontological distinctiveness of platforms will be examined
by taking their programmability into account. I position platformization as a form of platform critique that inquires into the
dynamics of the decentralization of platform features and the recentralization of “platform ready” data as a way to examine
the consequences of the programmability of social media platforms for the web.
Keywords
social media, platforms, Facebook, social network sites, Application Programming Interfaces
2 Social Media + Society
market and addressing users, and it has been widely taken up
by consumers and the press (Gillespie, 2010). Within new
media studies, the platform concept has gained prominence
to draw attention to the “discursive work” they undertake
(Gillespie, 2010, p. 348) and to the role of software—which
powers social media—in shaping participation and sociality
(Bucher, 2012a; Hands, 2013; Langlois, McKelvey, Elmer,
& Werbin, 2009; Van Dijck, 2013).
In one of the most central discussions on platforms,
Tarleton Gillespie (2010) puts forward a rather open account
of platforms by focusing on the different connotations of the
term. In the computational sense, Gillespie (2010) defines a
platform as an infrastructure to build applications on.
However, Gillespie (2010) contends, Web 2.0 companies
have introduced a broader meaning of the term “platform”
that moves beyond its computational meaning:
This more conceptual use of “platform” leans on all of the term’s
connotations: computational, something to build upon and
innovate from; political, a place from which to speak and be
heard; figurative, in that the opportunity is an abstract promise as
much as a practical one; and architectural, in that YouTube is
designed as an open-armed, egalitarian facilitation of expression,
not an elitist gatekeeper with normative and technical restrictions.
(p. 352)
Gillespie argues that this conceptual use enables plat-
forms to bring various actors together. The computational
meaning of platform speaks to developers, while the other
connotations address actors such as users, advertisers, and
clients (Gillespie, 2010). Gillespie is describing what in eco-
nomics Jean-Charles Rochet and Jean Tirole (2003) call the
business model of a “multi-sided market,” in which a plat-
form enables interactions between two or more distinct par-
ties (p. 990). Facebook is an example of a multi-sided
platform that connects users, advertisers, and third-party
developers and experiences network effects where value
increases for all parties as more people use it (Hagiu, 2014).
Within this economics and management literature, Annabelle
Gawer argues, platforms have often been theorized from two
distinct perspectives: “economic theory conceptualizes plat-
forms as markets (Rochet & Tirole, 2003),” whereas “engi-
neering design theorizes them as ‘modular technological
architectures’ (Baldwin & Woodard, 2009)” (Gawer, 2014, p.
1240). Bernhard Rieder and Guillaume Sire (2014) make an
important call for bringing these perspectives together (p.
197): studying platforms as multi-sided markets, they argue,
“can extend analyses of concrete configurations of power
and identify control points, structural dynamics and crucial
resources for argumentation” (Rieder & Sire, 2013, p. 208).
Following such techno-economic outlook on platforms, in
this article, I examine how the modular technical architecture
of social media platforms connects to their economic model.
In his work on platforms, Gillespie (2010) emphasizes the
participatory and economic aspects of platforms over their
computational dimension by stating that “‘[p]latforms’ are
‘platforms’ not necessarily because they allow code to be
written or run, but because they afford an opportunity to
communicate, interact or sell” (p. 351). Other authors, such
as Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort (2009), suggest a more nar-
row focus on platforms by foregrounding their computa-
tional aspect. In what follows, I am interested in developing
such computational account of platforms further to examine
the “work that platforms do” not in a rhetorical sense (cf.
Gillespie, 2010) but from a material–technical perspective.
Bogost and Montfort (2009) refute the idea that “everything
these days is a platform” and call for taking platforms as
computational infrastructures seriously. They see the plat-
form, in its computational sense, as an understudied layer of
new media (Bogost & Montfort, 2009). To address this blind
spot, Montfort and Bogost (2009) introduce “platform stud-
ies,” a call for a “technical rigor and in-depth investigation of
how computing technologies work” (p. vii) to analyze “the
connection between technical specifics and culture” (Bogost
and Montfort 2009).
These connections have been explored by a number of
authors engaging with a platform politics perspective to exam-
ine “the technological affordances of platforms in relation to
their political, economic and social interests” as an important
site where “platform politics” play out (Hands, 2013; Langlois
& Elmer, 2013).1 Platform politics approaches include
critically interrogating the platform concept (Gillespie, 2010;
McKelvey, 2011), analyzing the “technocultural logics” of
platforms (Gerlitz & Helmond, 2013; Langlois, Elmer,
McKelvey, & Devereaux, 2009; Langlois, McKelvey, et al.,
2009), examining the role of the platform architecture in shap-
ing networked sociality (Bucher, 2012a; Van Dijck, 2013) and
analyzing the politics of APIs (Bucher, 2013) and platform
data (Puschmann & Burgess, 2013) (see Renzi, 2011).
I am interested in the way platforms reformat the web
according to the logic of social media. My approach is based
on what Langlois et al. refer to as “disaggregation,” critically
examining social media platforms by taking them apart to
inquire into their specific components (Langlois, McKelvey,
et al., 2009). This contribution to platform studies and social
media studies lies in a detailed material–technical perspec-
tive on the development and emergence of what we under-
stand as social media platforms today. I will further develop
this argument by focusing on Facebook, one of the largest
and most visited social media platforms.2
Facebook: Social Network Site or
Platform?
Before the platform concept gained prominence, social
media platforms such as Facebook were often conceptual-
ized as social network sites, defined by boyd and Ellison
(2008) as web services in which users can create a profile
and build and display a list of connections with other users in
Helmond 3
the network (p. 211). However, Facebook has always care-
fully refrained from calling itself a social network (Arrington,
2008; Locke, 2007). Rather, over time, Facebook founder
Mark Zuckerberg has framed Facebook as a “social direc-
tory” (Facebook Newsroom, 2006); a “social utility”
(Facebook Newsroom, 2006); and a “platform” (Facebook
Newsroom, 2007). In his book The Facebook Effect on the
history of Facebook, David Kirkpatrick (2010) describes
how Zuckerberg has always envisioned Facebook as a com-
putational platform for other applications to run on, since its
inception as Thefacebook in 2004 (pp. 215-217):
He [Zuckerberg] wanted to do for the Web what Gates did for
the personal computer: create a standard software infrastructure
that made it easier to build applications— this time, applications
that had a social component. “We want to make Facebook into
something of an operating system, so you can run full
applications,” he [Zuckerberg] explained. (Kirkpatrick, 2010,
p. 217)
In the Fall of 2004, Zuckerberg was working on another
software project alongside Thefacebook called Wirehog, “a
peer-to-peer content-sharing service” (Kirkpatrick, 2010, p.
44). The Wirehog application was integrated into
Thefacebook to make use of its friendship connections to
share content in Thefacebook with friends. Zuckerberg saw
Wirehog as “the first example of treating Thefacebook as a
platform for other types of applications” (Kirkpatrick, 2010,
pp. 99-100). So, instead of a social network, Mark Zuckerberg
has seen and designed Facebook as a platform from the
beginning. Facebook’s development as a platform should be
perceived in the wider context of Web 2.0 as “the web as
platform” (O’Reilly, 2005), in which the web was positioned
as development platform.
Web 2.0: The Web as Platform
Social network sites are typically classified as one specific
type of Web 2.0 application (Beer & Burrows, 2007) or type
of social media (Van Dijck, 2013, p. 8). The term was popu-
larized at the first Web 2.0 conference in 2004, when Tim
O’Reilly defined Web 2.0 as the web as platform, a phrase
used to situate the web as a “robust development platform”
in which “websites become software components” (O’Reilly
& Battelle, 2004). Web 2.0 or “the participatory web” is now
understood as a wide set of services that foster collaboration
and participation (Madden & Fox, 2006).3
O’Reilly put the computational meaning of the term “plat-
form” at the center of the web as platform concept. With Web
2.0, O’Reilly (2005) no longer saw the web just as a medium
for publishing information—which he retrospectively
labeled Web 1.0—but as an infrastructure to build applica-
tions on, a distributed operating system that could deliver
software services. Therefore, Matthew Allen (2013) argues,
we should see Web 2.0 as “rhetorical technology” in which
“the computing industry attempted to change the way we
think of the internet” (p. 264), from publishing channel to
software development platform.
However, this more computational definition of Web 2.0
as the web as platform did not catch on after the conference,
Robert Gehl (2010) argues. Instead, Gehl (2010) claims,
Web 2.0 was seen as a revival of the industry after the dot-
com crash and, even more so within public and academic
debates, as a revolution that would reshape the media land-
scape (pp. 26-37). Web 2.0 technologies were seen as blur-
ring the boundaries between production and consumption
(Bruns, 2008), giving rise to new forms of user participation
as part of an online “participatory culture” (Jenkins, 2006).
So, while the original definition of Web 2.0 implied making
use of the web as a computational platform, it would be
embodied in a more metaphorical sense (cf. Gillespie, 2010),
as a platform for participation with the associated rhetoric of
“empowerment” and “democratization” (Beer, 2009, p. 986).
From Social Network Sites to Social
Media Platforms
To shift the focus from this broader conceptual notion of
platforms back to a more narrow computational understand-
ing to develop a platform critique of Facebook, I wish to fur-
ther explore the technological development of software
platforms on the web and in particular social media plat-
forms. I do so by attending to another computational defini-
tion of platform, provided by Netscape founder Marc
Andreessen (2007a) in a blog post discussing the launch of
Facebook Platform:
Definitionally, a “platform” is a system that can be reprogrammed
and therefore customized by outside developers—users—and in
that way, adapted to countless needs and niches that the
platform’s original developers could not have possibly
contemplated, much less had time to accommodate.
For Andreessen (2007b), the key term in this definition of
a platform is programmable, which eradicates the more con-
ceptual uses of the term: “If you can program it, then it’s a
platform. If you can’t, then it’s not.”
The programmability of Web 2.0 platforms, so McKelvey
(2011) argues, offers a novel line of criticism within platform
studies that starts with asking how a platform enacts its pro-
grammability. The notion of programmability has been key
to understanding the logic of new media (Chun, 2011;
Manovich, 2001)4 and, by extension, figures centrally in
examining the underlying logic of social media platforms.
To inquire into the specific preconditions of the pro-
grammability of social media platforms, I draw on Evans,
Hagiu, and Schmalensee’s (2006) definition of software
platform as “a software program that makes services
available to other software programs through Application
4 Social Media + Society
Programming Interfaces (APIs)” (p. vii). What follows
from this definition is that in order to become a platform,
a software program—or a website—needs to provide an
interface that allows for its (re)programming: an API:
An API is an interface provided by an application that lets users
interact with or respond to data or service requests from another
program, other applications, or Web sites. APIs facilitate data
exchange between applications, allow the creation of new
applications, and form the foundation for the “Web as a platform”
concept. (Murugesan, 2007, p. 36)
Returning to O’Reilly’s positioning of the web as a
development platform for new services, not only the web
as a whole but also websites themselves are now trans-
formed into platforms by providing an API.5 For example,
Facebook is a platform because it offers an API that can be
used by developers and webmasters to build new services
on top of Facebook and to integrate their websites and apps
with Facebook data and functionality.6 Dating app Tinder
is an example of an app that has been built on top of the
Facebook platform: it requires users to login with Facebook
and uses Facebook data such as “likes” and shared friends
to match potential partners. Another way to integrate with
Facebook is demonstrated by webmasters who have imple-
mented Facebook functionality such as Like buttons into
their pages.
In the web as platform websites can have two different
interfaces: a user interface for human consumption (e.g.
Facebook.com) and a software interface for machine con-
sumption (e.g. Facebook Graph API). This software inter-
face, the API, makes a website programmable by offering
structured access to its data and functionality and turns it into
a platform that others can build on. To extend this line of
thinking further, I place APIs at the core of the shift from
social network sites to social media platforms. The moment
social network sites offer APIs, they turn into social media
platforms by enacting their programmability. The API then
becomes a key site to critically inquire into the consequences
of this programmability.
Rise of Social Media APIs
Within the field of media studies, social media APIs have
been understood as the technological glue of the social
web in connecting services and enabling the sharing of
content (Bodle, 2011; Bucher, 2013; Langlois, McKelvey,
et al., 2009), as protocological objects (Bucher, 2013), as
regulatory instruments that govern the relations between
the platform and third parties (Puschmann & Burgess,
2013), as the business model of the social web7 (Bodle,
2011; Bucher, 2013), and as tools that construct data for
the data market (Vis, 2013). Most prominently, APIs have
been used and discussed as “a method for data collection
on social media platforms” (Lomborg & Bechmann, 2014).
Less attention has been paid, however, to the history of
social media APIs,8 that is, their emergence on the web as
part of the material infrastructure of social media plat-
forms and their consequences for the adaptation of the
platform model. One of the most comprehensive accounts
so far has been by technology blogger Kin Lane (n.d.),
who brands himself as “API Evangelist” and who has been
studying “the business and politics of APIs” since 2010.
Lane (2012) traces the historical emergence of web
APIs that targeted external developers back to the early
2000s, when Salesforce in 1999, eBay in 2001, and
Amazon in 2002 started to offer APIs as business-to-
business solutions for e-commerce. This first generation
of web APIs, mainly provided by e-commerce companies,
focused on exchanging data between different business
applications to enable transactions and sales management
(Lane, 2012). For example, Amazon’s (2002) Web
Services platform enabled third-party websites to search
through their catalogue, display Amazon products, and
earn referral fees from purchases from their own sites. In
doing so, Amazon’s API extended their e-commerce ser-
vices into other websites.
In the mid-2000s, a new generation of web APIs, pro-
vided by social network sites, shifted the focus from sales
transactions to access to user-generated content, user infor-
mation, and their connections (Lane, 2012).
In 2003, social bookmarking site del.icio.us started
offering programmatic access to its site, followed by Flickr
in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Last.fm in 2006, Facebook in
2006, and Twitter in 2006, after which many other social
network sites announced their APIs (DuVander, 2012;
Lane, 2012). Robert Bodle (2011) describes how these sites
made their content and functionality available as part of a
business strategy in which third parties can add value to a
platform by building new services on top of it (p. 325). He
explains how Tim O’Reilly advocated businesses to pursue
a platform strategy by opening up their valuable data to
achieve platform lock-in (Bodle, 2011, p. 325). In his Web
2.0 manifesto, O’Reilly (2005) further encouraged the
reuse of data with the recommendation to “design for ‘hack-
ability’ and remixability” by offering third parties access to
data and services. O’Reilly (2005) positioned data as the
“building blocks” of Web 2.0. This access has given rise to
the typical Web 2.0 practice of creating mashups—that is,
building new applications by remixing data and functional-
ity from existing sources using APIs (Benslimane, Dustdar,
& Sheth, 2008). Web 2.0 has, therefore, also become known
as “the programmable web” (Anderson, 2012; O’Reilly,
2005). In what follows, I explore the different types of
programmability that social media platforms offer through
their APIs, in order to formulate a platform critique of
Facebook that foregrounds its distinct conditions of pro-
grammability and their consequences.
Helmond 5
Levels and Conditions of
Programmability
In a blog post on Facebook’s new platform, Marc Andreessen
(2007b) explained how the programmability of Internet-
based software platforms can be facilitated on different lev-
els, producing what he sees as three types of Internet
platforms. These levels can also serve as a way to critically
inquire into the role of the platform architecture.
According to Andreessen, most social media platforms
provide a so-called Level 1 or “Access API.” Here, external
developers can access a platform’s data and functionality by
making API calls, which represent specific operations to per-
form a task, for example, read data, write data, or delete data
(Andreessen, 2007b). The API is accessed “from outside the
core system” which means that “the developer’s application
code lives outside the platform” (Andreessen, 2007b). Photo
sharing service Flickr is an example of an Access API, where
a developer can build a third-party application such as a
slideshow viewer to show photos tagged with “sunset” using
the Flickr API to request these data. In this scenario, the code
of the application is located on an external server, and the
application is hosted outside of Flickr. The programmability
of a Level 1 platform is characterized by simple access to
data and functionality. Developers can build new applica-
tions on top of the platform and integrate data and function-
ality into their external websites and apps but cannot
reprogram the platform itself. That is, the programmability
of Level 1 platforms is a way for platforms to expand outside
of their platform boundaries.
The Level 2 “Plug-In API” allows developers to “build
new functions that can be injected, or ‘plug in,’ to the core
system and its user interface” (Andreessen, 2007b).
Andreessen uses Facebook as an example of a Plug-In API
since it not only allows developers to access data and func-
tionality from Facebook to build new applications (Level 1
Access API), it also allows developers to load and use their
application within the Facebook environment9 through a so-
called Canvas Frame. Canvas is “a frame in which to put your
app or game directly on Facebook.com” in order to “deeply
integrate into the core Facebook experience” (Facebook
Developers, n.d.-a).10 While the app runs within Facebook,
the application code is located outside of the Facebook plat-
form (Andreessen, 2007b).11 Canvas apps enable users to cus-
tomize their Facebook experience, drawing attention to
McKelvey’s (2011) reconsideration of John van Neumann’s
idea of “programming as an act of composition.”
In the Level 3 “Runtime Environment” API, third-party
applications run within the runtime environment of the plat-
form itself (Andreessen, 2007b). Andreessen explains that
this approach is most similar to “traditional” computing plat-
forms, such as Windows operating system, where developers
built applications to be executed within Windows itself
(Andreessen, 2007b). The platform as runtime environment
is the least common approach on the web, since it requires a
more complicated technical framework for developers as
well as database and storage management (Andreessen,
2007b).12 As a consequence, the programmability of social
media platforms is typically enabled through an Access API,
Plug-In API, or both. More specifically, in Andreessen’s
terms, the most common type of social media platform is
the Level 1 Access API (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,
Tumblr, and Instagram), followed by the Level 2 Plug-In API
(Facebook).13
By distinguishing between different types of platforms,
Andreessen offers a framework with which to evaluate indi-
vidual platforms based on their conditions of programmabil-
ity. Similarly, by drawing on Florian Cramer and Matthew
Fuller’s (2008) typology of interfaces, McKelvey (2011)
argues that “[s]ince platforms have different interfaces, the
line of critique allows for the comparison of how platforms
facilitate programmability.” That is, we can compare social
media APIs to examine what kind of programmability these
platforms envision, what they enable and constrain and what
kind of data and functionality is made available for use and
for whom.
Platformization of the Web
I use the term “platformization” to refer to the rise of the
platform as the dominant infrastructural and economic model
of the social web and the consequences of the expansion of
social media platforms into other spaces online. Central to
this is the offer of APIs, which turn social network sites into
social media platforms. In order to understand these effects,
I will explore how the distinct conditions of the programma-
bility of social media platforms enable them to extend into
the web and to employ these extensions to format external
web data. That is, platforms enact their programmability to
decentralize data production and recentralize data collection
(Gerlitz & Helmond, 2013).
Websites have historically enabled their programmability
through the exchange of data, content, and functionality with
third parties in three ways, together providing the precondi-
tions for the platformization of the web: first, the separation
of content and presentation; second, the modularization
of content and features; and, third, the interfacing with
databases.
Separation of Content and Presentation
Most websites are created using the HyperText Markup
Language (HTML), which describes the content and presen-
tation of a web document. Since HTML is a presentation
technology designed for human consumption and many
HTML websites are ill-formatted, it is difficult for a machine
to extract and process structured information from a website
(Myllymaki, 2002, p. 635). The Extensible Markup Language
6 Social Media + Society
(XML) addresses these issues by separating content, struc-
ture, and presentation in a text-based format for machine
consumption (W3C, n.d.).14 This machine-readable and
human-readable format enables the sharing of structured
information between otherwise incompatible systems
(Myllymaki, 2002, p. 635; W3C, n.d.). XML has been an
extremely important development for the web by making
website data machine-readable and interchangeable between
different systems. It enables the structured formatting of data
for transmission, forming the basis for various data exchange
mechanisms that let website data flow out and into other
websites.15 Richardson and Ruby (2008) contend that XML
is key to technologies such as RSS, XML-RPC, and SOAP
which have “formed a programmable web, one that extended
the human web for the convenience of software programs”
(p. xviii).16
According to Liu (2004), the separation of content and
presentation through XML informs the underlying techno-
logic of the “post-industrial, transmission of information,”
which requires content be made “transformable,” “autono-
mously mobile,” and “automated” (pp. 57-58). This separa-
tion, Liu (2004) continues, makes content “transcendental,”
so that it can be poured from one container into another,
moving from database to database on the web (p. 59). A. Liu
(2004) describes how XML signals a shift from the first gen-
eration of self-contained HTML websites to a new type of
website that is filled with content from external databases (p.
57). These new web pages employ what Liu calls “data
pours” to pull in and display dynamic content from third par-
ties. A data pour is code embedded in a web page demarcat-
ing a space or container on that page that transfers data from
and to external databases (Liu, 2004, p. 59).
Published in the very early days of Web 2.0, Liu’s (2008)
idea of data pours can be read as an early reflection on the
increasing modularity of the web, which he later updated as
follows:
My observations here about data pours apply with even more
force in Web 2.0, where user-produced content flows both in and
out of back-end databases through “template” Web pages that are
often elegant, minimalist designs built around an all-powerful,
blind aperture of parameterized code—like a reversed black
hole—that sucks all content in and throws it out again. (p. 320)
These now commonplace data pours of Web 2.0, establish
data channels for data flows between websites and external
databases.
Modularization of Content and Features
In separating content from presentation, XML compartmen-
talizes web content by structurally describing each element
on a web page and turning these into small modules of data
that can be reused. The compartmentalization of content
makes existing content available on the web for machine
consumption and enables the circulation of content through
modular elements. Modularization is a key aspect of modern
software design that enables the management of complex sys-
tems by dividing them up into smaller modules and encourag-
ing the reuse of these modules (Baldwin & Clark, 2000; Gehl,
2012; McKelvey, 2011). Within Web 2.0, Ullrich et al. (2008)
argue, “services often disseminate their functionality by plug-
in modular components, so called widgets.” That is, “a plat-
form architecture displays a special type of modularity, in
which a product or system is split into a set of components”
(Baldwin & Woodard, 2009, p. 25). These widgets enable the
integration of a service’s content and functionality into
another website with a few lines of code that create a data
pour. Widgets have become central, platform-specific objects
for social media platforms to distribute their content across
different web spaces and to extend themselves into the web.
An important development in this extension came from
the video sharing site YouTube. On 7 July 2005, YouTube
(2005) announced a new feature that enabled users to put a
list of their YouTube videos on their own websites by copy-
pasting the provided HTML code. This code embedded a
YouTube widget showing a list of videos and thumbnails that
linked to the videos on YouTube. A month later, YouTube
announced a new widget that embedded a video player, so
that YouTube videos could now directly be played from
within any website (YouTube, 2005). The widget made it
possible to distribute and view YouTube videos outside of
YouTube’s website. This video embedding feature is often
seen as an important factor in the success of YouTube as it
enabled YouTube to circulate videos across social networks,
blogs, and other parts of the web by modularizing and decen-
tralizing its platform features (Cheng, Dale, & Liu, 2008).
While YouTube created its own widgets to distribute con-
tent outside of its website, social network MySpace played
an important role in popularizing the role of third-party wid-
gets to share content inside of its network. In contrast to
other social networks that were popular in 2005-2006—such
as Friendster—MySpace allowed users to insert embed
codes into their profile pages to add music players, photo
albums, and videos. It was the first social network that had
such an open architecture and with it arose a culture of pro-
file customizing and accessorizing (boyd, 2007).
With the ability to insert embed codes into profile pages,
third-party developers started to create widgets to enhance
the look and functionality of MySpace. In November 2005,
RockYou launched their first MySpace Flash widget to cre-
ate and display photo slideshows. An important aspect of
these early widgets is that, unlike YouTube’s sharing wid-
gets, they did not directly interface with MySpace’s data-
base. Users could not load their photos directly from
MySpace into the widget because MySpace did not offer
structured access (through an API or otherwise) to these pho-
tos. Instead, users had to upload their photos to the external
image hosting website ImageShack within the RockYou wid-
get first (Tokuda, 2009).
Helmond 7
This lack of a direct interface with MySpace’s database is
what Gehl (2012) refers to as MySpace’s “abstraction fail-
ure” to extract and monetize the content from its network
(pp. 111-112). Whereas MySpace widgets were mostly ori-
ented toward integrating and distributing content within its
own network, YouTube’s widgets were oriented toward the
distribution of content and functionality outside of its net-
work. As many Web 2.0 websites started to offer embed
codes and widgets to distribute their content across the web,
the approach of decentralizing platform features became
central. A second important distinction is that, unlike
MySpace widgets, YouTube widgets directly interfaced with
the site’s database. However, YouTube’s database facing
widgets were based on one-way data streams, on the dynam-
ics of decentralization, where content is retrieved from the
database and displayed on an external website. The next gen-
eration of widgets would be based on directly interfacing
with databases to enable two-way data streams, on the
dynamics of both decentralization and recentralization, to
not only read data from the database but also to write new
data to it.
Interfacing with Databases
Facebook’s social plug-ins are a set of tools, or widgets,
including the ubiquitous Like button, “that let you share your
experience off of Facebook with your friends and others on
Facebook” (Facebook Help, n.d.). The plug-ins function as
modules to extend platform functionality into external web-
sites (cf. Bodle, 2011). At the same time, Taina Bucher
(2012b) argues, they function as “edge-creating devices,”
collecting data created by connections or “edges” outside of
Facebook.com and sending it back to the platform’s database
(p. 6). Social plug-ins are an important part of Facebook’s
platform architecture, enabling the decentralization of plat-
form functionality and data produced on the platform and the
recentralization of data produced outside of the platform
(Gerlitz & Helmond, 2013). By embedding a plug-in into
their website, webmasters set up two-way data channels, data
pours, in which data flows between the site and Facebook’s
database. Technically, a social plug-in functions as an API
call (Helmond, 2013) and sends specific requests to
Facebook’s platform, for example, get the total number of
people who liked this post or publish a new like after clicking
the Like button.
Making Data Platform Ready
Before these plug-ins can interface with Facebook’s database
from an external website, webmasters need to make their
websites compatible with Facebook’s platform infrastruc-
ture. To do so, webmasters need to embed a piece of
JavaScript code into their websites which sets up a data com-
munication channel with Facebook’s platform. This code ini-
tiates the Facebook Software Development Kit (SDK) for
using social plug-ins, Facebook login, and making API calls
to the database (Facebook Developers, n.d.-e). In doing so,
webmasters are making their pages platform ready for data
communication with Facebook. This notion of making exter-
nal websites and web data platform ready extends Gillespie’s
(2014) idea of how data are made “algorithm ready” (p. 168)
to highlight the role of the platform infrastructure in recon-
figuring external data to fit the agenda of the platform.
Another important part of Facebook’s platform infrastruc-
ture is Facebook’s Open Graph, which is explicitly geared
toward making external data platform ready. The Open
Graph “lets you integrate apps deeply into the Facebook
experience, which increases engagement, distribution and
growth” (Facebook Developers, n.d.-d). To integrate an app,
developers need to use the Facebook SDK and Facebook
Login to set up relations between the app, Facebook, and the
user (Facebook Developers, n.d.-d). This integration lets
apps tell “stories” on Facebook such as “Mary ran 6 miles
with MyRunningApp” (Facebook Developers, n.d.-d). Apps
submit these stories to the Open Graph in a very structured
manner, organized around four elements, for example: John
(actor) is reading (action) The Odyssey (the object) on
Goodreads (app). There are a number of predefined actions
such as “like,” “watch,” and “read,” but developers can also
create their own actions. Bucher (2012b) describes these
efforts from Facebook “as a way to build a semantic map of
the Internet” (p. 5). The app integrations enable Facebook to
collect external app data and activities in a very structured
manner, send it back to the database, and connect it to a user
or to other data. It further expands Facebook’s data collec-
tion techniques into external applications and formats these
data according to the logic of the platform, so that it can be
put into new relations within the platform.
Webmasters can also make their websites platform ready
by marking up their sites with Open Graph tags (Facebook
Developers, n.d.-b). These meta tags provide Facebook’s
crawler with “structured info about the page such as the title,
description, preview image, and more” and control how con-
tent appears on Facebook to “improve distribution and
engagement” (Facebook Developers, n.d.-c). Similar to the
search engine optimization (SEO) practices of webmasters,
making websites “Facebook ready” can be seen as a form of
social media optimization.
The Open Graph shows how Facebook strictly structures
data flowing from apps and external websites to the platform
in order to make it platform ready. While platforms position
themselves as neutral intermediaries or utilities (Gillespie,
2010; Van Dijck, 2013), they (pre)format data passing
through their infrastructure according to the logic of their
underlying infrastructures.
Dual Logic of Platformization
The previous examples have shown how Facebook
employs its platform as an infrastructural model to extend
8 Social Media + Society
itself into external online spaces and how it employs these
extensions to format data for its platform to fit their eco-
nomic interest through the commodification of user activi-
ties and web and app content. This platformization, I argue,
rests on the dual logic of social media platforms’ expan-
sion into the rest of the web and, simultaneously, their
drive to make external web and app data platform ready.
As an infrastructural model, social media platforms pro-
vide a technological framework for others to build on,
geared toward connecting to and thriving on other web-
sites, apps and their data. At the same time, readying exter-
nal data for their own databases is central to the economic
model of social media platforms. These two processes of
decentralizing platform features and recentralizing plat-
form ready data characterize what I call the double logic of
platformization. This double logic is operationalized
through platform-native objects such as APIs, social plug-
ins, and the Open Graph, which connect the infrastructural
model of the platform to its economic aims. These ele-
ments serve as prime devices for social media platforms to
expand into the web and to create data channels—data
pours—for collecting and formatting external web data to
fit the underlying logic of the platform.
By proposing a material–technical perspective on plat-
forms, I have shown the “work that platforms do” not in a
rhetorical sense (cf. Gillespie, 2010) but in a computational
sense. The notion of platformization has been introduced as
a way to critique the consequences of the programmability of
platforms. This has been a first exploration in that area show-
ing how social media platforms are enacting their program-
mability to reweave the web for social media.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the guest
editors, Tarleton Gillespie and Hector Postigo, for their valuable
comments. Additionally, I would like to thank Richard Rogers,
Carolin Gerlitz, and Bernhard Rieder for their feedback on earlier
drafts.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
Notes
1. “Platform Politics” is the title of a conference held at Anglia
Ruskin University in Cambridge, United Kingdom, on 12-13
May 2011. The conference was organized by Josh Hands
and Jussi Parikka and brought together a number of scholars
studying the politics of platforms. Following the conference,
Culture Machine published a special issue titled “Platform
Politics” (2013).
2. According to Facebook, the platform had over 936 million
daily active users on average for March 2015 (“Company
Info,” n.d.). Facebook.com ranks number 2 in Alexa’s “top
500 sites on the web” which is “calculated using a combination
of average daily visitors and pageviews over the past month”
(“The top 500 sites on the web,” 2015).
3. See Michael Stevenson’s (2014) critique on the web’s alleged
“participatory turn.”
4. In his seminal book titled The Language of New Media, Lev
Manovich (2001) argues that all new media objects are numer-
ical representations and that this makes media programmable.
This programmability is key to the principles underlying new
media: numerical representation, modularity, automation,
variability, and cultural transcoding.
5. This draws our attention to the use of platform as a recursive con-
cept, as put forward by software developer Dave Winer (1995),
whom from early on saw the Internet as a meta-platform or “plat-
form machine” which can be used to build new platforms on.
6. More than 30 million apps and websites have integrated with
Facebook’s platform (D. Liu, 2015).
7. The industry refers to this as the “API Economy” or “[t]he emerg-
ing economic effects enabled by companies, governments, non-
profits and individuals using APIs to provide direct programmable
access to their systems and processes” (Willmott & Balas, 2013).
8. An exception within media studies is the work of Taina Bucher
(2013) on “Objects of Intense Feeling: The Case of the Twitter
API” in which she provides a historical background of the role
of APIs in software engineering and briefly discusses early
public web APIs.
9. On 25 March 2015, Facebook launched Messenger Platform
which “enables developers to easily build apps that integrate
with Messenger,” Facebook’s messaging app. Developers can
plug their app into Messenger using the Messenger Platform,
Facebook’s new Level 2 platform.
10. In their developer documentation, Facebook explains how this
works:
Apps on Facebook are web pages loaded into a Canvas
frame. The Canvas frame is simply a blank canvas within
Facebook on which to run your app. You populate the Canvas
frame by providing a Canvas URL and Secure Canvas URL
that contains the HTML, JavaScript and CSS that make up
your app. These will be used by users browsing Facebook
over HTTP and HTTPS respectively. When a user loads your
Canvas app on Facebook, we load the Canvas URL within
an iframe on that page. This results in your app being dis-
played within the standard Facebook chrome. (Facebook
Developers, n.d.-a)
11. The Canvas URL points to the external host where the app is
located which is then loaded within an iFrame in Facebook.
12. Andreessen’s examples of Level 3 Runtime Environment plat-
forms include Salesforce which allows users to inject their
own code and Andreessen’s (2007b) own Ning platform “for
creating and running social networking applications.” Despite
Andreessen’s claim that all “platforms are good, period,” he
does state that “I call these Internet platform models ‘levels’,
because as you go from Level 1 to Level 2 to Level 3, as I will
explain, each kind of platform is harder to build, but much bet-
ter for the developer.” In this sense, he promotes Level 3 plat-
forms, including his own Ning, as being the “best” platforms
for developers.
Helmond 9
13. Level 3 “Runtime Environment” platforms are mostly located in
the business-to-business domain such as Salesforce or Amazon.
14. The structure of an XML document looks as follows:
<book category=“Fiction”>
<title lang=“en”>Emma</title>
<author>Jane Austen</author>
<year>1916</year>
</book>
15. XML is at the core of several important data exchange mech-
anisms on the web, including XML-RPC and SOAP. The
XML-RPC protocol is based on the idea of remote procedure
calls (RPC) to “provide for transfer of control and data across
a communication network” (Birrell & Nelson, 1984, p. 39).
It was developed in 1998 by Dave Winer from Userland and
Microsoft to make requests to a remote computer and exchange
data on the web (Laurent, Johnston, Dumbill, & Winer, 2001,
p. x). Out of their work on XML-RPC came SOAP, Simple
Object Access Protocol, a “lightweight protocol used to
exchange XML-encoded information” (Laurent et al., 2001,
p. 172). XML-RPC- and SOAP-based web services enable the
exchange of structured data between different machines on the
web by communicating via the HTTP transmission protocol.
Recently, JSON has become the preferred format over XML
to transmit data, as it considered a more lightweight format. In
addition, the architectural style REST, Representational State
Transfer, has gained prominence for building web services.
For example, social media platform Twitter offers a REST-
based API which returns data in JSON.
16. See previous footnote. RSS is a web syndication format for
websites and blogs to publish a feed of their latest content. It is
based on XML, see http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/rss/rss.html.
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Author Biography
Anne Helmond (M.A., University of Amsterdam) is a PhD candi-
date and lecturer of New Media and Digital Culture at the
University of Amsterdam. Her research interests include software
studies, platform studies, digital methods, and web history.
... Additionally, scholars have discussed the processes of 'Googlization' (e.g., Rogers, 2009;Vaidhyanathan, 2012), 'softwarisation' (Manovich, 2013), and 'platformisation' as processes that have profoundly transformed the contemporary media environment. This includes the open Web (Helmond, 2015a;Helmond, 2015b), mobile media and 'apps' (e.g., Aradau et al., 2019;Gerlitz, Helmond, Nieborg, et al., 2019;Goggin, 2021;Morris and Murray, 2018;Nieborg and Helmond, 2019), and media infrastructure (Plantin and Punathambekar, 2019;Plantin et al., 2018). This also includes transformations in a broad variety of markets and sectors of society, including digital marketing and advertising, Web search, cultural production, financial transactions, the news, urban transportation, healthcare, education, and automobility (e.g., van Dijck et al., 2018;Kerssens and van Dijck, 2021;Nieborg and Poell, 2018;Poell et al., 2019;Rieder and Sire, 2014;Westermeier, 2020). ...
... APIs serve as the lingua franca for the exchange of data and functionality between companies and are of strategic importance for Big Tech companies like Facebook or Google. This is in part due to the Web becoming more data-intensive with the rise of the 'platform' as its dominant technological and business model (Helmond, 2015a). APIs have become the core elements of digital infrastructure, underpinning today's digital (platform) economy and society. ...
... APIs play a key role in the capture and movement of personal data, the interconnections between software apps and services, and bring about 'the formation of platform monopolies' through the decentralisation of their services (Blanke and Pybus, 2020). Although APIs may be perceived as 'microscopic' technical objects, they are nonetheless significant because they comprise the material infrastructures of platforms and apps and articulate and shape the processes of datafication (e.g., programmatic data-sharing) and platformisation (Helmond, 2015a;Pybus and Cote, 2021). APIs are more than technical objects designed and deployed by platforms at a given moment; they are increasingly complex layered and interconnected technical objects that govern a platform's data and functionality and are prone to constant change due to both internal and external pressures. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Digital ‘platforms’ owned and operated by powerful Big Tech companies have shaped and impacted social, economic, and political life in significant ways. Yet, platforms remain an ambiguous phenomenon. What exactly are these platforms? How can we identify and understand the features of their power? The platform as ecosystem explains how not merely the platforms themselves but especially their larger ‘ecosystems’ are important for understanding the unique features of platform governance and power. Platform ecosystems have become the dominant technological, organisational, and governance model for digital platforms over the past fifteen years. These ecosystems comprise many different types of users including end-consumers, software developers, marketers and advertisers, and business partners who build software tools, products, and services of their own ‘on top’ of the interfaces provided and controlled by leading platforms. These users each help build and expand platform ecosystems while negotiating governance and control by central platforms. This dissertation examines different aspects of platform ecosystems to determine how platforms’ material foundations or infrastructures relate to governance and power. It develops several novel empirical and historical approaches for studying the distinct material and relational features of digital platform ecosystems. This reveals how platforms derive considerable power from their ecosystems and provides unique empirical and historical insights into the technological, organisational, and evolutionary features of platform (and mobile app) ecosystems. These approaches and insights are relevant to digital media and platform researchers and help policymakers, regulators, and authorities worldwide dealing with the challenges of governing digital economies and societies.
... In discussing the proliferation of Facebook beyond its original confines as 'just' a social media platform, Helmond (2015) argues that platformisation 'rests on the dual logic of social media platforms' expansion into the rest of the web and, simultaneously, their drive to make external web and app data platform ready ' (2015, 8). The same dual logic has begun to permeate through educational institutions. ...
Book
Life is increasingly governed and mediated through digital and smart technologies, platforms, big data and algorithms. However, the reasons, practices and impact of how the digital is used by different institutions are often deeply linked to social oppression and injustice. Similarly, the ability to resist these digital impositions is based on inequality and privilege. Challenging the ways in which we are increasingly dependent on the digital, this book raises a set of provocative and urgent questions: in a world of compulsory digitality is there an opt out button? Where, when, how, why and to whom is it available? Answering these questions has become even more relevant since the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the book puts forward the concept of ‘digital disengagement’ which is explored across six key areas of digitisation: health; citizenship; education; consumer culture; labour; and the environment. Part I examines the difficulty of opting out of compulsory digitality in a world where most things are digital by default. From health apps, algorithmic decision-making to learning analytics, opting out comes with a set of troubling consequences. Part II turns to several examples of disconnection and disengagement. The chapters reveal how phenomena like digital detoxes, time-management apps and online ‘green’ spaces are co-opted by the very digital systems one is trying to resist. The book critiques issues relating to digital surveillance, algorithmic discrimination and biased tech, corporatisation and monetisation of data, exploitative digital labour, digitalised self-discipline and destruction of the environment. As an interdisciplinary piece of work, the book will be useful to any scholar and activist in Digital, Internet and Social Media Studies; Digital Sociology and Social Policy; Digital Health; Media, Popular and Communication Studies; Consumer culture; and Environment Studies.
... In discussing the proliferation of Facebook beyond its original confines as 'just' a social media platform, Helmond (2015) argues that platformisation 'rests on the dual logic of social media platforms' expansion into the rest of the web and, simultaneously, their drive to make external web and app data platform ready ' (2015, 8). The same dual logic has begun to permeate through educational institutions. ...
Chapter
Life is increasingly governed and mediated through digital and smart technologies, platforms, big data and algorithms. However, the reasons, practices and impact of how the digital is used by different institutions are often deeply linked to social oppression and injustice. Similarly, the ability to resist these digital impositions is based on inequality and privilege. Challenging the ways in which we are increasingly dependent on the digital, this book raises a set of provocative and urgent questions: in a world of compulsory digitality is there an opt out button? Where, when, how, why and to whom is it available? Answering these questions has become even more relevant since the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the book puts forward the concept of ‘digital disengagement’ which is explored across six key areas of digitisation: health; citizenship; education; consumer culture; labour; and the environment. Part I examines the difficulty of opting out of compulsory digitality in a world where most things are digital by default. From health apps, algorithmic decision-making to learning analytics, opting out comes with a set of troubling consequences. Part II turns to several examples of disconnection and disengagement. The chapters reveal how phenomena like digital detoxes, time-management apps and online ‘green’ spaces are co-opted by the very digital systems one is trying to resist. The book critiques issues relating to digital surveillance, algorithmic discrimination and biased tech, corporatisation and monetisation of data, exploitative digital labour, digitalised self-discipline and destruction of the environment. As an interdisciplinary piece of work, the book will be useful to any scholar and activist in Digital, Internet and Social Media Studies; Digital Sociology and Social Policy; Digital Health; Media, Popular and Communication Studies; Consumer culture; and Environment Studies.
... The decline of print media since the emergence of the internet era in the early 2000s has been accompanied by a rise in online-only digital publishers, which are representative of the texts analysed here. The relationship between technology and media has seen journalism emerge as a precarious profession (Beckett and Deuze, 2016) as online content has become informed by a revenue-per-click business strategy in the shift towards mobile engagement (Helmond, 2015). In this context, digital content is designed for users to engage in by 'reading, watching, viewing, listening, checking, snacking, monitoring, scanning, searching, clicking, linking, sharing, liking, recommending, commenting and voting' (Meijer and Kormelink, 2015: 667). ...
Article
In this article, we analyse how mediated discourses of toxic friendships echo and reconstruct the category of the toxic friend. We ask: what kind of assumptions does the toxic friendship discourse draw on, and what forms of subjectivity and interpersonal relationships are encouraged? Employing a critical discourse analysis of digital texts, we argue that the discursive category of the toxic friend draws on a simplistic set of classificatory dichotomies distinguishing between the good and the toxic friend. We also suggest that the popular labelling of difficult friendships as ‘toxic’ reflects the contemporary diffusion of the notion of toxicity in contemporary public culture. We contend that this discourse reflects the discursive conflation between therapeutic culture and neoliberal wellness logic, with the figure of the toxic friend constructed in ways that support imperatives for self-care and self-governance. While much of the advice situates friendship as an important personal tie, there is very little encouragement to ‘work’ on these relationships. As such, these discourses offer a reductive, disposable approach to friendship ties that overlooks the complexities and lived experiences of friendship relations.
... One explanation for this may be that ubiquitous tracking technologies do make true anonymity rare because every digitally mediated behavior can, in theory, be recorded and connected to one's personal identity. Such tracking technologies are foundational to the business model of the handful of major technology platforms that have come to dominate a previously decentralized web (Helmond, 2015). For example, one study found that Google tracks people across more than 80% of the websites they visit (Libert, 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
We evaluate how features of the digital environment free or constrain the self. Based on the current empirical literature, we argue that modern technological features, such as predictive algorithms and tracking tools, pose four potential obstacles to the freedom of the self: lack of privacy and anonymity, (dis)embodiment and entrenchment of social hierarchy, changes to memory and cognition, and behavioral reinforcement coupled with reduced randomness. Comparing these constraints on the self to the freedom promised by earlier digital environments suggests that digital reality can be designed in more freeing ways. We describe how people reassert personal agency in the face of the digital environment’s constraints and provide avenues for future research regarding technology’s influence on the self.
... Hence, urban geographers increasingly apply the concept of PU to analyze the ways platformization alters the production of urban space Hodson et al. 2021). In this framework, the meaning of platform extends beyond its technological definition as a programmable interface (Helmond 2015) to encompass the platform as an organizational form for a data-based business model ; van Doorn/Badger 2020) and a mode of governing (Barns 2019; Altenried 2020). ...
Chapter
Chapter available Open Access here: https://library.oapen.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.12657/58443/1/9783839459645.pdf#page=120 In this chapter, Maartje Roelofsen and Kiley Goyette examine the complexities of power, privilege, and representation that shape Airbnb work. They do so by considering how the dynamics between gender and other social categories are reflected in who is assigned the various types of labor involved in taking guests. The chapter highlights how this labor is distributed within different household compositions, including couples, singles, families, and cohabiting friends, when accommodating the extra social reproduction labor that hosting Airbnb guests demands.
... For module owners, the client-server configuration can be problematic, as the literature has shown for platforms like Twitter (Bucher, 2013;Puschmann, 2013) or Facebook (Helmond, 2015). In addition to functional, causal and technical dependencies of a client-IS on the SIS, to control the API gives the SIS owner indirect control on what a module owner can do (control of activity), how (control of semantics), and when (control of temporality) (Stiefel and Sandoz, 2022). ...
Article
Neste artigo, realiza-se uma revisão integrativa por meio de análise bibliométrica das pesquisas brasileiras sobre mídias sociais e discurso publicadas em periódicos de alto impacto nos últimos dez anos. Tendo como objetivo a compreensão mais aprofundada dos desenvolvimentos desses estudos e suas tendências, observamos critérios quantitativos e qualitativos que definem esse campo de estudos. A pesquisa utilizou-se da metodologia de análise bibliométrica, com coautorias e palavras-chave, agrupando os principais temas e analisando de modo aprofundado essa bibliografia. Nossos resultados mostram que inicialmente essas entradas se relacionavam por meio da concepção de redes sociais e da técnica de análise de discurso, mas sem relação com as mídias sociais propriamente. Contudo, verifica-se que este campo encontra-se em expansão nas Ciências Sociais, e que essa tendência está relacionada ao processo de plataformização da web e a variáveis conjunturais, como a difusão de desinformações e a Pandemia de Covid-19.
Thesis
Full-text available
Data are increasingly interwoven in various aspects of our social lives. In our everyday and professional lives many kinds of data are produced, as we make online searches via search engines, chat with loved ones and friends via social media, or use a maps app on our smartphone to find our way in an unfamiliar place. To use these digital data for decision-making, and literally anything else, people rely on computational technologies. With these, digital data can be processed, recombined, operated with, used, and sold. Going hand in hand with the pervasiveness of data in our society is the process of datafication. Researchers across manifold academic disciplines and fields from computer science to sociology, media studies, communication research, humanities, and education research are working on topics concerning this datafied society. In the recent years, this body of academic work has been consolidating under the terms ‘critical data studies’ or just ‘data studies’, drawing on various ontological, epistemological, theoretical, and methodological approaches to studying datafication processes. How, then, in this manifold of perspectives, academic knowledge about datafication processes and our datafied societies is produced? What is ‘critical’ in data studies? How do scholars conducting research on datafication reflect about “what matters we use to think other matters with;” (Haraway, 2016, p. 12) in their studies? With my thesis, I advance our understanding of how what is known about datafication and datafied societies is produced. I show how empirical datafication research produces re-situated conceptualisations of datafication and discuss the role of critique in data studies. I propose "care-ful data studies" as a pathway for further, generative, care-ful critique, contributing to the literature bridging data studies with feminist traditions of thought.
Chapter
Abstract: Clicktivism is the practice of supporting a cause through the internet employing, for example, online petitions made available on crowdsourcing platforms. It has been criticized for the low level of commitment demanded from clicktivists. Platforms themselves are the centre of controversy because of their business model –based on monetizing users’ data—, and their role in generating ideological bubbles and disseminating disinformation. However, studies suggest that people who participate in online politics also do so in their offline lives, and platforms enable new forms of activism and humanitarianism. This article focusses on the new technopolitic practices supported by digital platforms, access to open data, and the employment of open-source intelligence. The 2010s are a turning point for technopolitics: they mark the expansion of the platforms for political engagement, the start of the territorialization of the internet, and the emergence of new democratic practices to campaign, generate evidence, and sustain alternative stories for humanitarianism and activism. This study identifies three main challenges for these democratic practices: namely, the proliferation of disinformation and hate speech, the lack of data literacy, and the monopolistic practices of big tech companies.
Book
Full-text available
In Digital Methods, Richard Rogers proposes a methodological outlook for social and cultural scholarly research on the Web that seeks to move Internet research beyond the study of online culture. It is not a toolkit for Internet research, or operating instructions for a software package; it deals with broader questions. How can we study social media to learn something about society rather than about social media use? Rogers proposes repurposing Web-native techniques for research into cultural change and societal conditions. We can learn to reapply such “methods of the medium” as crawling and crowd sourcing, PageRank and similar algorithms, tag clouds and other visualizations; we can learn how they handle hits, likes, tags, date stamps, and other Web-native objects. By “thinking along” with devices and the objects they handle, digital research methods can follow the evolving methods of the medium. Rogers uses this new methodological outlook to examine such topics as the findings of inquiries into 9/11 search results, the recognition of climate change skeptics by climate-change-related Web sites, and the censorship of the Iranian Web. With Digital Methods, Rogers introduces a new vision and method for Internet research and at the same time applies them to the Web's objects of study, from tiny particles (hyperlinks) to large masses (social media).
Book
Web 2.0 and Beyond: Principles and Technologies draws on the author's iceberg model of Web 2.0, which places the social Web at the tip of the iceberg underpinned by a framework of technologies and ideas. The author incorporates research from a range of areas, including business, economics, information science, law, media studies, psychology, social informatics and sociology. This multidisciplinary perspective illustrates not only the wide implications of computing but also how other areas interpret what computer science is doing. After an introductory chapter, the book is divided into three sections. The first one discusses the underlying ideas and principles, including user-generated content, the architecture of participation, data on an epic scale, harnessing the power of the crowd, openness and the network effect and Web topology. The second section chronologically covers the main types of Web 2.0 services-blogs, wikis, social networks, media sharing sites, social bookmarking and microblogging. Each chapter in this section looks at how the service is used, how it was developed and the technology involved, important research themes and findings from the literature. The final section presents the technologies and standards that underpin the operation of Web 2.0 and goes beyond this to explore such topics as the Semantic Web, cloud computing and Web Science. Suitable for nonexperts, students and computer scientists, this book provides an accessible and engaging explanation of Web 2.0 and its wider context yet is still grounded in the rigour of computer science. It takes readers through all aspects of Web 2.0, from the development of technologies to current services.
Article
This paper looks at how data is 'made', by whom and how. Rather than assuming data already exists 'out there', waiting to simply be recovered and turned into findings, the paper examines how data is co-produced through dynamic research intersections. A particular focus is the intersections between the application programming interface (API), the researcher collecting the data as well as the tools used to process it. In light of this, this paper offers three new ways to define and think about Big Data and proposes a series of practical suggestions for making data.
Book
This book studies the rise of social media in the first decade of the twenty-first century, up until 2012. It provides both a historical and a critical analysis of the emergence of networking services in the context of a changing ecosystem of connective media. Such history is needed to understand how the intricate constellation of platforms profoundly affects our experience of online sociality. In a short period of time, services like Facebook, YouTube and many others have come to deeply penetrate our daily habits of communication and creative production. While most sites started out as amateur-driven community platforms, half a decade later they have turned into large corporations that do not just facilitate user connectedness, but have become global information and data mining companies extracting and exploiting user connectivity. Offering a dual analytical prism to examine techno-cultural as well as socio-economic aspects of social media, the author dissects five major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Wikipedia. Each of these microsystems occupies a distinct position in the larger ecosystem of connective media, and yet, their underlying mechanisms for coding interfaces, steering users, filtering content, governance and business models rely on shared ideological principles. Reconstructing the premises on which these platforms are built, this study highlights how norms for online interaction and communication gradually changed. "Sharing," "friending," "liking," "following," "trending," and "favoriting" have come to denote online practices imbued with specific technological and economic meanings. This process of normalization is part of a larger political and ideological battle over information control in an online world where everything is bound to become "social."