The Platform Social

How are digital platform interventions reshaping the societies, communities, and economies that we study? The Platform Social is a PhD-run research network that explores these questions through focused reading groups and collaborative workshops.

The Platform Social is an Edinburgh-based research network of postgraduate and early career researchers studying the digital economy and society. Our work spans sociology, political economy, organisational theory, and interdisciplinary studies of markets, cities, and technology. We focus on a multitude of topics, ranging from citizenship and placemaking to education, labour, and markets.

What brought us together and out of our Covid-complicated silos was our shared empirical interest in how digital platform interventions are reshaping the societies, communities, and economies that we study. The inverted Platform Social twists the social platform to convey our positioning as a social-scholar community formed by a shared interest in how platforms work, socially and socio-technically.

Through reading, reflection, and conversation, we are finding out what the stakes are in studying these digital objects and are forging our identity as a research network. We welcome anyone who is working on similar topics to join us for our hybrid reading sessions and occasional workshops.

The Platform Social Inaugural Workshop

25 April 2023

Our first workshop introduced our network to a broader audience, bringing together forty scholars interested in research done on and with digital platforms. The day-long event featured working paper presentations from Platform Social members from both the Universities of Helsinki and Edinburgh, in conversation with provocations from Franck Cochoy (University of Toulouse), Minna Ruckenstein (University of Helsinki) and Donald MacKenzie (University of Edinburgh) who reflected on their recent work exploring how platforms and their algorithms feel, move, trade and “socialise” us. The event also marked the debut book talk for Minna Ruckenstein’s The Feel of Algorithms

From Data to Theory: Theorising at the intersection of digital sociology, economic sociology and STS

13 October 2023

With support from the British Sociological Association, this Regional Postgraduate Day Event opened our network to over thirty postgraduate and early career researchers from around the UK, who were invited to explore different ways of understanding and theorising the digital through empirical research. ‘From Data to Theory’, had a double meaning, referring both to the growing significance of data-things to theories of the social, and to the practice of theorising our own research data—how to find meaning and significance in what is collected. In addition to small group theorising discussions, we heard from Liz McFall, Karen Gregory, and Ben Collier about how they approach theorising, and our keynote Francesca Sobande unpacked how she theorises rapidly changing digital culture in practice. 

Tokens, bits, cookies and nudges: How platforms took over the world

30 November 2023

Welcome to the age of the platform! From Twitch, to Coinbase, to Airbnb, platforms are changing how we make money and have fun all the while redefining everything from banking to marketing, from travel to games, intimacy to work. But what is it exactly that they do to us and we do to them? This workshop explored platform cultural-economy relations from a variety of vantage points, in the company of Rachel O’Dwyer (National College of Art & Design, Dublin) and Robert Cluley (University of Birmingham). Platform Social researchers shared their recent work on changing marketing epistemologies, streaming cultures and economies, markets and pricing technologies, and nudge’s travels into Silicon Valley. We concluded the day with Rachel O’Dwyer discussing her new book, Tokens: The Future of Money in the Age of the Platform, longlisted for the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award.

Since October 2022, we have built a vibrant community through regular gatherings, events, and initiatives. For more information, including upcoming events and past readings discussed, please visit The Platform Social Blog. To join our mailing list, please email Addie, Elif or Joe.

Join us to challenge, create, and make change happen.