CfP: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University

Call for Papers for the Second Annual Conference: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University

28 – 29 November 2019 at Lancaster University

Higher education is increasingly ‘platformised’. Indeed, digital platforms have become ubiquitous. They are dominant intermediaries not only in our social, economic and political life, but have become central forms of capitalist accumulation. While platforms differ in terms of openness to developers and public access to data, they operate on similar principles. Some have grown to the extent that have become infrastructures in their own right such as Facebook, while others ‘plug-in’ and become parts of the digital infrastructural backbone. The technical and business aspects of platforms are two sides of the same coin – the market-making aspect of platforms is thus driving technological development, and the technical aspect is configuring markets. These processes, as well as their fast growth and complexity, pose methodological challenges including even identifying appropriate units of analysis.

Higher education is increasingly subject to platformization processes. Yet, in the growing scholarship on platforms, there is a lack of focus on universities and their constituents. Especially scarce is work that would critically examine what platforms are in higher education, what they do, and what is the impact on the sector. The inaugural ‘Platform Universities’ conference, organised at the Faculty of Education in Cambridge in December 2019, opened these questions. This year’s conference at the University of Lancaster will take the debate forward.

We invite papers addressing the full range of questions posed by these considerations, including:

  • Platforms and infrastructures
  • Theorising platforms in higher education
  • Big data, analytics and platforms
  • The politics and political economy of platforms
  • Methodological and analytical challenges in studying platforms
  • Platform education and the platform university

There will be keynotes from Bev Skeggs (LSE) and Sam Sellar (MMU).

Please send abstracts of 500 words or less by July 31st 2019, sent to Please include a brief biographical note, as well as three keywords to categorise your submission. We also plan to publish a select set of papers as a special issue or edited book and are in conversation with journal editors and publishers. The conference is free to attend. Unfortunately, we do not have any financial support for travel and accommodation costs.

This event is co-organised by the Culture, Politics and Global Justice cluster at the University of Cambridge and the Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation at Lancaster University.

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