The Power and Politics of Platforms - A talk by Emil Lundedal Hammar


Whether it’s Unity’s new business model or Netflix’ anti-sharing password policy or Apple’s privacy protections, major tech platforms have implemented new measures that have received negative backlash and worse conditions for businesses and users. At the same time, politicians are complaining that the platforms are operated out of either China or the US, where especially the EU are lacking behind when it comes to tech independency. In a sense, we all rely on platforms in our everyday lives, whether it is through social media, game distribution, finding our way around the city, writing exam papers, or ordering food delivery. Yet these technologies are not ‘neutral’ but instead shaped and influenced by the political and economic systems they emerge from, which in turn impact those who are locked into the platform ecosystems. To better understand these dynamics – such as when Unity introduces undesirable business terms for game makers – this presentation highlights the ways that platforms shape our everyday cultural products such as digital games where 1) their structures motivate certain types of products and consumption patterns through ‘platformization’ 2) the decision-making and business policies are fundamentally tied to the economic system in which leaders are primarily concerned with profits following years of venture capital investments; and 3) that platforms are first and foremost material and located somewhere as seen in the geopolitical controversies over Facebook, TikTok, or Huawei that similarly applies to the domain of digital games. The presentation goes over the dominant status of platforms in the case of digital games where the transnational flow of revenue between game companies and countries are analyzed to introduce concepts such as platformization and platform imperialism. These help identify the next set of controversial policies implemented by dominant platforms, as well as future geopolitical tensions that everyday game makers, students, and teachers should take seriously. Overall, the presentation further motivates questions surrounding ownership and democratic control over the game-related platforms we rely on every day.

Nov 10, 2023 3:00 PM
IT University of Copenhagen, Auditorium 4