Category: Software Studies

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 (,, and 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 web as platform: Data flows in social media

On September 23, 2015 I will publicly defend my dissertation ‘The web as platform: Data flows in social media’ at the University of Amsterdam. Read the English summary/Nederlandse samenvatting or download the full dissertation as PDF (43Mb). Abstract This dissertation looks into the history of Web 2.0 as “the web as platform” (O’Reilly 2004) and traces the transition of social network sites into social media platforms to examine how social media has transformed the web. In order to understand this process from an infrastructural perspective, I develop the concept of “platformization”. This notion refers to the rise and consequences of the platform as the dominant infrastructural and economic model of the social web. Platformization, I argue, rests on a dual logic of social media platforms’ extension into the rest of the web and, simultaneously, their drive to make external web data “platform ready”. I draw on digital methods to study the effects of social media on the web’s infrastructure and formulate a platform critique by examining the platform-specific objects that have been introduced by social media platforms such as social buttons and short URLs. Doing so, the thesis offers a contribution the emerging fields of software studies and platform studies. […]

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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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The Materiality of Facebook and Localizing the Cloud

In “The Like economy: Social buttons and the data-intensive web” colleague Carolin Gerlitz and I looked into the way Facebook uses the technical infrastructure of social buttons buttons to create a data-intensive web. In this study we aimed to go beyond the interface level by analyzing the infrastructure of the Facebook Platform (API) itself. Recently, Mél Hogan from the University of Colorado-Boulder pointed me to a blogpost where she wrote about the material infrastructure of Facebook by focusing on its data centres. In her post ‘The Node Pole as the Archive’s Underbelly‘ she points to the materiality of Facebook by describing how “these dislocated centers heighten the distance between users and the data they generate as necessary to maintain the archival illusions of continuous uninterrupted access.” While the cloud consists of dislocated datacentres there seem to be two tensions at play in the discourses around ‘the cloud.’ On the one hand the tension (or paradox) between immateriality and materiality, where the datacentres in place create the idea of continuous uninterrupted access. On the other hand the tension between the global and the local, where the previous tension of the cloud is played out not in the (im)materiality of hardware but through the […]

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