Association of American Geographers Conference 2018
New Orleans, USA, 10-14 April 2018
Susan Moore (University College London)
Scott Rodgers (Birkbeck, University of London)
Digital Geographies Specialty Group
Media and Communication Geography Specialty Group
Urban Geography Speciality Group
Talk about ‘platforms’ is today all-pervasive: platform architecture, platform design, platform ecosystem, platform governance, platform markets, platform politics, platform thinking. But just what are platforms? And how might we understand their emergent urban geographies?
As Tarleton Gillespie (2010) argues, the term ‘platform’ clearly does discursive work for commercial entities such as Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and Google. It allows them to be variably (and often ambiguously) described and imagined: as technical platforms; platforms for expression; or platforms of entrepreneurial opportunity. Indeed, as emergent spaces, platforms – both commercial and nonprofit – entail so many ambitions, activities, services, exchanges, forums, infrastructures, and ordinary practices that conceptualizing their general dynamics is difficult, perhaps even pointless.
Yet platforms do appear to have considerable implications, geographical as well as political. For Benjamin Bratton (2015), cloud-based platforms such as Facebook, Amazon and Google form a fundamental layer of what he calls planetary-scale computation, perhaps representing new forms of geopolitical sovereignty. This ‘sovereignty’ is, however, neither generalized nor homogeneous: in manifests in geographically uneven intensities and extents.
This session invites original research and conceptual reflections that explore, debate and critique the notion of an emergent ‘platform urbanism’. Recently, Nick Srnicek (2016) deployed the phrase ‘platform capitalism’ to encapsulate his argument that platforms not only mark a new kind of firm, but a new way of making economies. Here – in a move similar to Henri Lefevbre’s (1970/2003) in The urban revolution – we suggest a speculative substitution of ‘urbanism’ for ‘capitalism’, placing an emphasis on the possibility of irreducible, co-generative dynamics between platforms and the urban.
Contributions may address a wide range of commercial and nonprofit platforms – including those related to social networking, user-generated content, location-based technologies, mapping and the geoweb, goods and services, marketing, and gaming – and their relationships with various forms of urban living and urban spaces.
Expressions of Interest
We intend to organize 1-2 paper sessions, depending on quantity and quality of submissions, followed by a panel discussion session.
Expressions of interest must be emailed to both Susan Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>) and Scott Rodgers (firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>) by 1 October 2017. Those proposing a paper presentation should send an abstract of 250 words; those interested in participating as a panellist should include a short outline of their intended contribution in their email.
Bratton, B. H. (2016). The stack: On software and sovereignty. MIT press.
Gillespie, T. (2010). The politics of ‘platforms’. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347-364.
Lefebvre, H. (1970/2003). The urban revolution (originally published as La révolution urbaine). University of Minnesota Press.
Srnicek, N. (2016). Platform capitalism. John Wiley & Sons.