The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Jonas Andersson Schwarz: Platform logic: The need for an interdisciplinary approach to the platform-based economy

Jonas Andersson Schwarz, Sodertorn University, Stockholm, Sweden

The article synthesizes various schools of thought on digital platforms, ranging from critical political economy to information systems management and design studies. I provide both a descriptive model of structural ramifications of platform-based infrastructure and an epistemological rationale for studying it. The paper tentatively outlines key structural principles and a set of hypotheses: I propose that digital platforms implement a twofold logic of (micro-level) control and (macro-level) domination, while at the same time having a range of generative outcomes. I enumerate different platform business models and attendant degrees of market dominance. I conclude that, in order to assess platform logic for academic or regulatory purposes, a range of problems pertaining to information access have to be addressed, and equally so from the point of view of dominant platform companies, whose impact and leverage might otherwise be wrongly estimated or misinterpreted. Moreover, in order to understand the vast range of contingencies at play in platform logic, multidisciplinarity is essential: The understandings needed for equitable regulation can be achieved only by synthesizing data science, media studies, economic sociology, and philosophy with studies of infrastructure, management, and design.

Jonas Andersson Schwarz