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The Platformization of the Web: Making Web Data Platform Ready



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
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Corresponding Author:
Anne Helmond, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam,
Turfdraagsterpad 9, 1012 XT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The Platformization of the Web:
Making Web Data Platform Ready
Anne Helmond
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, 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
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. 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 started
offering programmatic access to its site, followed by Flickr
in 2004, YouTube in 2005, 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
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” 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
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
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.). 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
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>
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
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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.
... Ainda na perspectiva teórica que aponta um processo de captura estratégica do jornalismo, importante achado de Papaevangelou (2023) Arranjos econômicos alternativos às corporações de mídia são organizações de pequeno ou médio porte, desvinculadas da grande imprensa, nativas digitais e compostas por comunicadores de diferentes recortes geracionais, muitos deles oriundos de veículos 1 Por jornalismo digital se entende aqui não somente uma produção noticiosa adaptada à Internet, mas um jornalismo que incorpora as lógicas do digital (DUFFY; ANG, 2019) em suas mais diferentes plataformas, incluindo mídias sociais, aplicativos de mensagem e serviços de compartilhamento. 2 Neste contexto, a expressão "empresas de plataforma" se refere às corporações proprietárias de serviços usualmente classificados como "plataformas digitais" (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp). Portanto, esta terminologia diferencia as plataformas enquanto modelos de negócio (SRNICEK, 2018) das plataformas enquanto tecnologias digitais (HELMOND, 2015). tradicionais -em função de demissões, ou ainda por iniciativa própria (LELO, 2022). ...
... Mais recentemente, esta literatura passou a considerar que a crescente influência das empresas de plataforma na economia e na própria arquitetura da web configuraria um processo específico, alcunhado de "plataformização". Conforme Helmond (2015), este conceito se refere tanto à hegemonia do modelo econômico e técnico das plataformas no ambiente digital, bem como as consequências da colonização de outros espaços de interação online por empresas como Google e Meta. Já Poell, Nieborg e Van Dijck (2020, p. 5) acentuam, em sua definição, que a dinâmica em questão abrange não só a reestruturação do ecossistema digital, mas também a penetração dos "processos econômicos e estruturas governamentais das plataformas em diferentes setores econômicos e esferas da vida". ...
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O artigo discute a influência das empresas de plataforma no mercado jornalístico, com ênfase para a relação estabelecida entre Google e Meta e os arranjos alternativos às corporações de mídia no Brasil. Por meio da triangulação metodológica, foram mapeados os programas de financiamento lançados para subsidiar veículos de imprensa e realizadas sete entrevistas semiestruturadas com representantes das iniciativas contempladas, visando compreender a influência das plataformas nos processos de trabalho dos comunicadores. Por fim, são analisadas as estratégias discursivas empregadas. Os resultados evidenciam o interesse das plataformas em reconfigurar a imprensa conforme suas lógicas operacionais.
... Direct consumer payment through subscription and donation has been taken up by several commercial news organisations with mixed success (Chyi & Ng, 2020), reflecting differences in global markets (Newman et al., 2023) and consumer's willingness to pay for a consumer product where a highly comparable alternative can be readily found online (Hollifield, 2019;O'Brien et al., 2020). Audiences are increasingly able to access a range of news stories from a variety of news brands through search and social media platforms, representing the platformisation of news distribution (Flew, 2019b;Helmond, 2015). Initially celebrated as an effective means by which to reach new audiences, the platformisation of news distribution has created a number of problems for news producers in their relationships with digital platforms, which are coming to eclipse the value derived from increased visibility online (Flew, 2021;Meese & Hurcombe, 2021). ...
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Journalism is considered essential to a functioning democracy. However, the continued viability of commercial news production is uncertain. News producers continue to lose advertising revenue to platform businesses dominating digital advertising markets, and alternate consumer direct revenue streams are not yet meeting the financial shortfall. This has led to questions of who should pay for news, the role of governments in maintaining news production viability, and whether digital platforms have social or economic responsibilities to pay news publishers. In this article, we seek to make explicit what is often implicit in such debates, which is the value of news. This is hard to know in advance as news is an experience good whose value and quality are only known after consuming it, and a credence good, whose perceived qualities may not be observable even after it is consumed. As such, preparedness to pay for news can be hard to ascertain, accentuated by the large amount of free news available online. This article seeks to use a value perspective to consider the relationship between individual consumer choices and questions of news’s value to society. Applying a new institutional economic perspective, it is observed that the value of news as a consumer product needs to be examined in relation to its value as a social good in democratic societies as both a media product and part of the institutional environment in which other social actors operate. We consider news’s social and economic value within a context of platformed news distribution and declining advertising revenues that appear to be structural and not cyclical.
... Helmond, who posited a historical stance on the change from social networking sites to online media platforms, defines the term platformisation as the advent of platforms given the dominant social network infrastructure and economic model and the implications of social media platforms expansion into other virtual spaces. In other words, platformisation impliments social media platform extension to other network parts and their efforts to platformise external network data [49]. As platformisation research has evolved, studies related to social media platforms and platformisation have focused on the fields of economics, media studies and culture [7-14, 18,33,35,50]. ...
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Chinese national music is unique to China, and in the past, the single means of distribution and the audience led to the fact that knowledge of Chinese culture and history was limited to national musicians and a subset of fans. With the rapid development of the internet, the dissemination of Chinese national music is no longer limited to live performances, but is beginning to shift to media platforms. Social media has had a tremendous impact on Chinese music culture; people can search for any information they need about Chinese music. With the advancement of social media, groups of internet celebrities such as wanghong (网红) have formed on the internet. This study systematically reviews platformisation and the social media in Chinese national music. Past literature and current notions on Chinese national music development under platformisation are examined given the essentiality of smart devices in developing music through digital technology. The study posed three research questions: 1.What is the current state of development of Chinese national music? What opportunities does platformisation bring to Chinese national music? 2.What areas are the focus for research on platformisation and social media? What is the impact on the music field? 3.What is the history of the development of the Chinese wanghong phenomenon? What impact has it made on Chinese national music? A general systematic review of scholarly articles was conducted for this study using multiple publications from reputable databases: Scopus, Web of Science and CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure). The articles were categorised based on scholarly works involving platforms, platformisation, Chinese national music, social media, and wanghong to determine past study profiles in this domain and relevant knowledge gaps.
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The purpose of this article is to diagnose the platform society and propose actions that should be implemented over the next ten years in Brazil. An introduction to the theme of digital platforms is made, clarifying some fundamental concepts (data sovereignty and colonialism, datafication, infopower, and algorithmic governmentality). Then, the three central parts of the text are presented: a current diagnosis, perspectives on the future and some propositions of actions that must be thought and/or implemented to face the challenge of platforming society in Brazil.
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Resumo O objetivo deste artigo é fazer um diagnóstico sobre a sociedade de plataformas e propor ações que devem ser implementadas no horizonte dos próximos dez anos no Brasil. É feita uma introdução ao tema das plataformas digitais, esclarecendo alguns conceitos fundamentais (soberania e colonialismo de dados, dataficação, infopoder e governamentalidade algorítmica). Em seguida apresentam-se as três partes centrais do texto: um diagnóstico da atualidade, as perspectivas sobre o futuro e algumas proposições de ações que devem ser pensadas e/ou implementadas para enfrentar o desafio da plataformização da sociedade no Brasil.
Online platforms have profoundly changed the organization of work in many economic sectors, and the sex industry is no exception. Webcam sex platforms, in particular, host large and heterogeneous populations of workers who are not formally employed and rely heavily on algorithmic systems to manage this workforce. These systems are often said to produce or reinforce unpredictable and unequal winner-take-all effects, contributing to economic pressure and precarity. Most research trying to empirically assess these claims has focused on single platforms and on the experiences of limited samples of regular workers, excluding more sporadic performers that nonetheless compete for visibility within the same ranking systems. In this article, we seek to address these limitations through a multi-platform study based on systematic ranking data collected by scraping the complete homepages of five webcam platforms over 11 weeks. The article proceeds in four steps. We first discuss existing work on algorithmic workplace management and webcam sex platforms. We then introduce the case studies, present our empirical approach, and discuss ethical considerations. The findings section is organized around two complementary lines of inquiry: an examination of visibility distributions across our sample of websites, as well as their connection with viewer numbers, and an exploration of the relationship between visibility and labor practices, which allows us to link performer availability to ranking outcomes. We conclude by highlighting the substantial differences between these designed marketplaces and discuss repercussions for both webcam sex research and the broader field of platform studies.
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Kurzfassung Ausgehend von Begriffen wie „digitale Souveränität“ und „strategische Autonomie“ untersucht die vorliegende Analyse, gestützt auf eine Vielzahl von Indikatoren, die digitale Dependenz von 37 Ländern. Während die Ergebnisse in Bezug auf verschiedene Sektoren (Software und Hardware) und Dimensionen (Handel, Infrastruktur, geistiges Eigentum) stark voneinander abweichen, zeigt das Gesamtbild einen hohen durchschnittlichen Grad an digitaler Abhängigkeit. Die Daten offenbaren außerdem äußerst asymetrische globale Strukturen. Die USA sind mit einem Wert von 0,46 die bei Weitem am wenigsten digital abhängige Volkswirtschaft. Die ausgeprägteste Asymmetrie zwischen den USA und dem Rest der Welt zeigt sich bei der Abhängigkeit von digitalen Infrastrukturen. China hat in den letzten zehn Jahren enorme Fortschritte gemacht, seine digitale Dependenz zu verringern. Die europäischen Länder behielten hingegen einen sehr vulnerablen Status bei. Die quantitative Messung der digitalen Abhängigkeit legt eine Neubewertung der gängigen Vorstellungen von „digitaler Autonomie“ nahe. Aus der Sicht globaler Strukturen bleibt Autonomie für die Länder Europas, wie für die meisten anderen, eine Illusion.
Platform governance scholarship commonly derives the role of the state from its actions as a regulator of platforms: a rule-setter that sets limits and restricts their activities. This article argues that three additional state roles enable and constrain the agency of states to regulate platforms: facilitator, buyer, and producer. Using the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act as a case study, the article asks: How do different state roles in platform governance shape AI’s regulatory geographies? It answers this research question by outlining two policy dilemmas between those four state roles. First, the EU’s ambition to act as a facilitator of digital markets constrains its scope of interventions as a regulator of platforms. Second, the EU’s deficits in acting as a producer of AI infrastructure exacerbate its dependency as a buyer of Big Tech offerings, especially cloud computing services. The article contends that dilemmas between state roles are not anomalies but defining features of state-platform relations. As generative AI systems gain sophistication, an understanding of how state roles relate to each other helps to navigate their complex governance regimes.
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Digital identity platforms provide unique identity to residents. These also facilitate provision of public services in associated domains like banking, digital payments, healthcare, etc. Such horizontal expansion in multiple domains imparts digital infrastructure characteristics to such platforms. This research ascertains combination of attributes driving infrastructuring of digital identity platforms using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) and further substantiated by qualitative contextual knowledge. Several key observations regarding necessity and sufficiency of solutions are made. Although based on Indian digital identity platform Aadhar and other public application program interfaces, this research has global implication since such systems are being implemented in several countries in pursuance of United Nations sustainable development goal (SDG 16.9). This research makes several conceptual, theoretical, public policy and methodological contribution using fsQCA with unique characteristics of organized complexity, configurational approach, and equifinality.
This article examines the public communication of COVID-19-related ‘preprints’ (unreviewed research studies) in a digital media environment. To understand how preprint research flows from preprint server, to media story, to social media audience, we analysed engagement with ‘second-order citations’ – social media posts linking to media coverage of research – using a sample of 41 media stories published by the research amplifier platform The Conversation (TC) that mentioned preprint research during the early months of the pandemic. We applied content analyses to the Facebook and Twitter accounts sharing these stories and analysed the engagement that the posts received. We found that TC stories mentioning preprints were shared among a diverse collection of Facebook and Twitter accounts, providing a second layer of social media amplification of preprint research. Still, posts by a small proportion of ‘elite’ actors – people with prominent roles in media and communications, politics or academia – tended to generate more engagement.
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A theoretical examination of the surprising emergence of software as a guiding metaphor for our neoliberal world. New media thrives on cycles of obsolescence and renewal: from celebrations of cyber-everything to Y2K, from the dot-com bust to the next big things—mobile mobs, Web 3.0, cloud computing. In Programmed Visions, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun argues that these cycles result in part from the ways in which new media encapsulates a logic of programmability. New media proliferates “programmed visions,” which seek to shape and predict—even embody—a future based on past data. These programmed visions have also made computers, based on metaphor, metaphors for metaphor itself, for a general logic of substitutability. Chun argues that the clarity offered by software as metaphor should make us pause, because software also engenders a profound sense of ignorance: who knows what lurks behind our smiling interfaces, behind the objects we click and manipulate? The combination of what can be seen and not seen, known (knowable) and not known—its separation of interface from algorithm and software from hardware—makes it a powerful metaphor for everything we believe is invisible yet generates visible, logical effects, from genetics to the invisible hand of the market, from ideology to culture.
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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).
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.
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.
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."