Platforms: Global Histories, Practices, and Theories


INF2245H

We are told that now we are living in a platform society because digital platforms, from Amazon and Flipkart to Instagram and WeChat, shape the social life of a great majority of the global population. This course is designed to advance the knowledge about the global origin and development of the platform-turn in the intersecting fields of information studies, studies of science and technologies, management studies, and political economy of communication and media. The course provides an intellectual voyage of the global experience and expression of platform from the geography outside Anglophone where the term was first theorized in the manufacturing industry, and from the days when the concerning experiences were not yet understood through the perspective platforms as we know today to the contemporary era when we can hardly imagine an internet without digital platforms.

The course explores the global histories and practices of the platform, as well as the implications of the increasing penetration of digital platforms into the social fabric of our life on a global scale. The course will guide the students to pay special attention to how local conditions, globalization, and the geo-politics of information and knowledge production intertwine to shape and be shaped by the intellectual undertaking to theorize platform as a discourse, business model, mediation device, power relation, and organizational revolution. Students will engage with key concepts, theories, and approaches in the emerging field of platform studies, but also with some overlooked histories and local articulations of what platform is and how platform works. The course will be a discussion-oriented seminar. Discussions will revolve around history, theorization, and politics of platform through examples of different platforms beyond the digital realm and from a variety of geographies.