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).


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. As part of this undertaking, I put forward new methods that I frame as digital methods for platform studies which utilize medium-specific features to explore the dynamics of platformization. I propose a new branch of platform studies that I call platform infrastructure studies, which analyzes the ecosystem of software platforms with platform-specific digital methods.

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