Platform Society

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

Platform Society
Download PDF • 2.99MB

The early days of the internet - when we were still imagining what the future information society might look like - have given way to the new reality of social platforms, as online digital platforms have risen to dominate social interaction on the internet. Whereas web 1.0 was a world of divergence, plurality, experimentation and exploration, the story of web 2.0 since the beginning of the last decade has been one of convergence, concentration, and commercialization as platforms have taken over an ever greater share of the running of the web and are becoming ever more central to the operation of our economy and society in what some have called the "platform revolution". Today these platforms permeate all aspects of our public and private lives; in virtually every area these platforms are important means to information and connectivity.

This rise of online platforms in general, and social platforms more specifically, has been dramatic over the course of the past decade. This transformation towards a platform economy is happening fast and it is one that we are not as yet prepared for, leaving traditional institutions in a reactionary position. The story is becoming somewhat familiar at this stage, large platforms rise to prominence, start to have an impact in the real world, and inevitably - due to the fact that they operate on different principles - create friction with existing institutions and then we react to them, trying to impose regulation. We see this with the rise of Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the accommodation industry, or Facebook and the media industry.

But these growing pains of platforms and the frictions they cause within society are only the tip of the iceberg. The development of social platforms is the current Wild Wild West of the ongoing transformation into a network society, through which our existing institutional infrastructure will be transformed along many dimensions over the coming decades. This transition will not be a smooth one as we try to build a new set of social institutions that harness the new possibilities engendered within information technology and the proliferation of communications networks.

  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Si logo.png