- Maribel Casas-Cortés, Maribel Casas-CortésUniversity of Zaragoza
- Montserrat Cañedo-RodríguezMontserrat Cañedo-RodríguezUniversidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
- and Carlos DizCarlos DizUniversity of A Coruña
Platforms have become a central concern in scholarly production due to their sudden scope and rising popularity in mainstream discourse, which either hyper-celebrate their possible achievements, or over-dramatize underlying consequences. Together with related terms—such as sharing economy, digital ecosystems, algorithmic decision-making—the so-called platform revolution has been portrayed as a profound transformation upon previous modes of economic exchange and models of business organization. Platform scholarship is sharply divided among utopian and dystopian prospects, contributing to a multiplication of terminology and opposing narratives around the emergence and development of platforms. While some fields and disciplines emphasize its multiple potential benefits, others explore its continuities with previous negative trends. Both, defenders and critical scholars of platforms, agree upon the intermediary role of connecting economic agents through technological innovations as the defining feature of platforms.
Those working in the field of anthropology—and its sister disciplines such associology, human geography, cultural and media studies, as well as legal scholars—have been steadily contributing to complicate, if not undo, an overly optimist or pessimist portrait of the platform economy. Thanks to case-based studies and empirical appraisals of its inner workings, these disciplines are developing more complex and rather critical accounts of its human and environmental entanglements. The very study of platforms, as with other research objects such as mobility, technology, and racism, among others, request a certain fluidity between disciplinary boundaries, giving rise to transdisciplinary fields and approaches. In the case of the emerging field of platform studies, the discipline of anthropology has a lot to offer. Indeed, anthropology’s attention to materiality, everyday practices, and agency are already informing the literature on platforms. Methodologically, ethnography is becoming one of the main approaches to engage the complexities of platforms. For an anthropology of platforms to fully unfold, three areas of research can be identified as worth exploring: (a) tracing the genealogies and logistics of platform infrastructures; (b) further understanding the limits of this economic model by building and expanding upon established concrete and critical engagements; and (c) accounting for the conjunctural contingency of platforms by paying due attention to expressions of resistance and instances of reappropriating platforms.
- Sociocultural Anthropology