Category: Papers


The Affordances of Social Media Platforms

Taina Bucher and I would like to circulate our chapter on “The Affordances of Social Media Platforms,” our contribution to the SAGE Handbook of Social Media, edited by Jean Burgess, Thomas Poell, and Alice Marwick, forthcoming in 2017. Abstract In this chapter we want to reflect on the concept of affordance as a key term for understanding and analysing social media interfaces and the relations between technology and its users. We first describe five different–but related–ways in which affordance has been conceptualized and subsequently address how it has been employed to analyse social media in particular. We then outline a platform-sensitive approach to affordance as an analytical tool for examining social media based on recent examples of changes to the Twitter platform. Our approach is sensitive to the medium-specificity of platforms, as technological intermediaries and entities that can be built upon, and which draw different stakeholders together and orchestrate their relationships to each other (Gillespie, 2010; Helmond, 2015). Such a perspective requires taking into account how affordances relate not only to end-users and their activities but also to third-parties such as developers who extend the affordances offered by the platform, and advertisers who monetize platform activities. Affordances, we argue, manifest in […]

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The Data Sprint Approach: Exploring the field of Digital Humanities through Amazon’s Application Programming Interface

My co-authored article with David M. Berry, Erik Borra, Jean-Christophe Plantin and Jill Walker Rettberg on “The Data Sprint Approach: Exploring the field of Digital Humanities through Amazon’s Application Programming Interface” has been published in Digital Humanities Quarterly, Volume 9 Number 4. Abstract This paper documents the results of an intensive “data sprint” method for undertaking data and algorithmic work using application programming interfaces (APIs), which took place during the Digital Method Initiative 2013 Winter School at the University of Amsterdam. During this data sprint, we developed a method to map the fields of Digital Humanities and Electronic Literature based on title recommendations from the largest online bookseller, Amazon, by retrieving similar purchased items from the Amazon API. A first step shows the overall Amazon recommendation network for Digital Humanities and allows us to detect clusters, aligned fields and bridging books. In a second step we looked into four country-specific Amazon stores (Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr and Amazon.de) to investigate the specificities of the Digital Humanities in these four countries. The third step is a network of all books suggested for the Electronic Literature field in the four Amazon stores we searched, which offers a comparison to the field of Digital Humanities. The full article is available online at […]

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The Platformization of the Web: Making Web Data Platform Ready

My article on ‘The Platformization of the Web: Making Web Data Platform Ready‘ has been published in the first issue of the new (open access) journal Social Media + Society. Abstract In this article, I inquire into Facebook’s development as a platform by situating it within the transformation of social network sites into social media platforms. I explore this shift with a historical perspective on, what I refer to as, platformization, or the rise of the platform as the dominant infrastructural and economic model of the social web and its consequences. Platformization entails the extension of social media platforms into the rest of the web and their drive to make external web data “platform ready.” The specific technological architecture and ontological distinctiveness of platforms will be examined by taking their programmability into account. I position platformization as a form of platform critique that inquires into the dynamics of the decentralization of platform features and the recentralization of “platform ready” data as a way to examine the consequences of the programmability of social media platforms for the web. The full article is available online at Social Media + Society.

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The Politics of Real-time: A Device Perspective on Social Media Platforms and Search Engines

My co-authored article, with colleagues Esther Weltevrede and Carolin Gerlitz, has been published in Theory, Culture & Society Abstract This paper inquires in the politics of real-time in online media. It suggests that real-time cannot be accounted for as a universal temporal frame in which events happen, but explores the making of real-time from a device perspective focusing on the temporalities of platforms. Based on an empirical study exploring the pace at which various online media produce new content, we trace the different rhythms, patterns or tempos created by the interplay of devices, users’ web activities and issues. What emerges are distinct forms of ‘realtimeness’ which are not external from but specific to devices organized through socio-technical arrangements and practices of use. Realtimeness thus unflattens more general accounts of the real-time web and research, and draws attention to the agencies built into specific platform temporalities and the political economies of making real-time. The full article is available online at Theory, Culture & Society and available for download as pdf.  

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Book Review: ‘Raw Data’ Is an Oxymoron

I just published a book review on ‘Raw Data’ Is an Oxymoron, edited by Lisa Gitelman, in Information, Communication & Society: “This edited collection is a timely and important intervention into the ‘Big Data’ hype by addressing the core of the Big Data discourse through its history. It does so by not only asking the important question of what data are, but also ‘[w]hat are we to data and data to us?’ (2013, p. 1). The authors contributing to this collection, edited by media historian Lisa Gitelman, place these fundamental questions into the larger history of data by addressing the distinct histories of data, data collection and data analysis from various disciplines. In doing so, they provide a historical lens on the data economy with the important – but often side-stepped – question of what compromises the data in ‘Big Data’ driving this new economy and how is it constructed?” (Helmond, 2014). Continue reading at Information, Communication & Society or download the author’s postprint PDF.

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The Algorithmization of the Hyperlink

My article “The Algorithmization of the Hyperlink” has just been published in the third issue of Computational Culture: a journal of software studies. Abstract This study looks at the history of the hyperlink from a medium-specific perspective by analyzing the technical reconfiguration of the hyperlink by engines and platforms over time. Hyperlinks may be seen as having different roles belonging to specific periods, including the role of the hyperlink as a unit of navigation, a relationship marker, a reputation indicator and a currency of the web. The question here is how web devices have contributed to constituting these roles and how social media platforms have advanced the hyperlink from a navigational device into a data-rich analytical device. By following how hyperlinks have been handled by search engines and social media platforms, and in their turn have adapted to this treatment, this study traces the emergence of new link types and related linking practices. The focus is on the relations between hyperlinks, users, engines and platforms as mediated through software and in particular the process of the algorithmization of the hyperlink through short URLs by social media platforms. The important role these platforms play in the automation of hyperlinks through platform […]

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