Over the last several years, platform companies—a broad category that may include firms as diverse as Facebook, Salesforce, Google, Patreon, AirBNB, DoorDash, etc.—have been positioned as all-encompassing omnipotent actors that can upend democracies, remake industries, and redefine employment. Increasingly, however, we have seen pushback against the technology industry. This includes shifts in public opinion represented in media (referred to as ‘the techlash’), coordinated efforts by established groups such as labor organizers, and refusals to use platform services by users and advertisers. In other cases, advocates and academics are taking opportunities to work with platforms in developing and enforcing policies and rules; through signing on to fact-checking partnerships, oversight boards and trust and safety councils, or through engaging with platforms through processes of consultation. Finally, platform companies’ imaginaries for their products often fail to materialize even without coordinated resistance due to infrastructural and cultural barriers.
This workshop invites scholars to consider how interactions with platform companies do or do not shape how technologies are designed, and deployed, and how global users are governed. Though platforms are centralized and powerful actors, this workshop is intended to explore the existing and emerging infrastructures, cultures, and organizational forms can shape decision-making and design or impede platforms’ implementation “on the ground.” These forces can include users of these platforms, industry actors, civil society organizations, and government, but it can also include how existing infrastructures—such as low connectivity areas—can mediate the impact of technology on communities.
Relevant paper topics for this workshop might include:
- Methodological tools to consider interactions between stakeholder groups in platform governance
- Papers on modes of engagement and interaction with platform companies (such as refusal, resistance, co-optation, cooperation, exclusion, or erasure)
- Examples in which local media infrastructures act as impediments to a platform owners’ visions
- Critical moments, issues, or events that impact platform policies and design
- Instances of “platform collapse” in which a platform fails to achieve or loses network effects
- Platforms that have widely varying impacts across geographic contexts and why
- Fracturing of the sociotechnical imaginaries associated with platforms, whether by owners, dependents, or other stakeholders
- The interactions between platforms, users, and intermediaries as seen via intersectional perspectives
We encourage attendees to approach the Data & Society workshop series as an opportunity to engage across fields, and to strengthen both relationships and research through participation. While we recognize the value for individual authors, we also see this as a field-building exercise valuable for all involved.