Platform Politics - Call for Papers
A Multidisciplinary Conference in Cambridge, UK, 12 & 13 May, 2011
Wired recently announced the ‘death’ of the Web, based on the premise that platforms are becoming the primary mode of access to the Internet. Platforms are portals or applications that offer specific Internet services, frameworks for social interaction, or interfaces to access other networked communications and information distribution systems. Additionally the prevalence of mobile computing and its operating systems, that prioritise Internet access via ‘apps’ not web browsers, is intensifying this transformation, and this model is now being applied to tablet computing - and may well soon spread into general computing and computer mediated communication. These platforms are able to take advantage of the scale-free architecture of the Internet to built very large user bases and communities of interest. However, unlike the world-wide-web, these platforms are often proprietorial, have closed protocols and operate as a kind of privatised public space. As such platforms themselves are becoming the object and enabler of politics, but also new arenas of control. Therefore network politics can be seen as pertaining not only to the question of content (what questions, agendas and activities are taken up and promoted as political?) but also to the role of platforms and apps as political ‘objects’ that shape the form and the structure of political mediation.
Such proprietorial platforms as Facebook and Twitter have been used in the various modes of organization of political events, both on and offline, and have been discussed with enthusiasm as new tools for stimulating the democratic process, with electoral campaigns, and as organising tools to influence public opinion and create pressure groups. At the same time the proprietorial nature of these platforms and their role as an integral part of a ‘communicative capitalism’ works to create a situation of great ambiguity and has not gone unnoticed in either network theory or software development. There is, however, an emerging movement of software development for activism, and non-proprietorial social networking, that places at its core the values of openness, decentralisation and not-for-profit projects - such as Diaspora and Thimbl - that are emblematic of the alternative political economies of network politics. So the question of how politics is increasingly processed through the form of software and hardware design, as well as the hacking of closed platforms and creation of peer-to-peer networks, is a pressing one. This conference thus wishes to engage with the full range of these concerns and to map out the place of software, hardware and online platforms, as a realm of both control, but also as opportunity for radical political practices, in the ‘democratising’ of democracy, and in the challenge to the ‘interpassive’ political economy of communicative capitalism.
Hence, this conference is interested in such questions as:
● What are the platforms on which network politics takes place and what can we think of as political ‘action’ in this context?
● What are the particular forms of platform politics and how can we theorize such forms and practices?
● Can we extend critical theory into such new modalities as media critique through software?
● How to think circuit bending, hardware hacking and such practices as political?
● What are the future forms and new conceptualisations of hacking that merit attention?
● Can we really conceive the ‘openness’ of FLOSS (Free, Libre, Open Source Software) as a genuinely radical practice or
rather another circuit in the production of communicative capital?
● Is it too late to ‘de-monetise’ social media?
We invite theoretical interventions, empirical papers, as well as case studies from theorists, practitioners, and activists to engage with the question of “platform politics”.
Speakers include: Nick Couldry (Goldsmiths College, University of London), (Michael Goddard (University of Salford), Tim Jordan (King’s College, University of London), Dmytri Kleiner (Telekommunisten), Tiziana Terranova (University of Naples, L’Orientale). Also with Greg Elmer (Ryerson University) and Ganaele Langlois (University of Ontario Institute of Technology) representing the Infoscape Research Lab.
Please send your abstracts of up to 400 words by Monday 14 February 2011 to both organisers:firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com - acceptances will be announced by Monday 7 March 2011.
This conference is part of the project Exploring New Configurations of Network Politics, funded by the AHRC and situated at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK. The project’s previous events have tackled methodological and theoretical questions underpinning network politics, as well as new object oriented approaches for interdisciplinary analysis.
More info on the project: