This is an interesting reflection from Jean Burgess and Joshua Green in the second edition of YouTube. I think this defence of the platform as an object is really important and this is something I want to expand up on in upcoming writing. From pg 13:
But at the time, writing a whole book about a single platform (rather than, say, a medium or sub-sector of a media industry, like television) was at best a novel thing to do; at worst, it looked like a mistake that risked capture by a particular corporate brand, resulting in a failure to attend to the historical and political forces behind it. Nevertheless, we felt that attempting to systematically study YouTube as a platform was both a useful way to understand the historical development of digital media, and a significant and worthy scholarly challenge in itself.
It is important to understand the distinctive affordances of each platform, their cultures of use and social norms, and how the co-evolution of their business models, technologies, and uses are shaping and reshaping media and communication.
The newer sub-field of critical digital methods is beginning to make use of YouTube’s in-built metrics, algorithms, and ontologies, accessed via the API, and combining this data analysis with critical software studies (Rieder et al., 2017; Burgess and Matamoros-Fernandéz, 2016). These kinds of critical digital methods are sometimes performed under the rubric of ‘platform studies’ (Plantin et al., 2016), or ‘interface methods’ (Marres and Gerlitz, 2016)–that is, methods that draw on the data generated by platforms while also treating the platforms themselves critically (see also Rieder et al., 2017).