Gillespie – The Politics of Platforms

 

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The politics of ‘platforms’ new media & society 12(3) 347–364 Tarleton Gillespie Cornell University, USA Abstract Online content providers such as YouTube are carefully positioning themselves to users, clients, advertisers and policymakers, making strategic claims for what they do and do not do, and how their place in the information landscape should be understood. One term in particular, ‘platform’, reveals the contours of this discursive work. The term has been deployed in both their populist appeals and their marketing pitches, sometimes as technical ‘platforms’, sometimes as ‘platforms’ from which to speak, sometimes as ‘platforms’ of opportunity. Whatever tensions exist in serving all of these constituencies are carefully elided. The term also fits their efforts to shape information policy, where they seek protection for facilitating user expression, yet also seek limited liability for what those users say. As these providers become the curators of public discourse, we must examine the roles they aim to play, and the terms by which they hope to be judged.”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In October 2006, Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion, cementing their domi-nance in the world of online video. ”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A few months later, YouTube made a slight change to the paragraph it uses to describe its service in press releases. This ‘website’, ‘company’, service’, ‘forum’ and ‘commu-nity’ was now also a ‘distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small’ (YouTube, 2007c). ”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “YouTube’s dominance in the world of online video makes them one of just a handful of video ‘platforms’, search engines, blogging tools and interactive online spaces that are now the primary keepers of the cultural discussion as it moves to the internet.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As such, again like the television networks and trade publishers before them, they are increasingly facing questions about their responsibilities:”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In the context of these financial, cultural and regulatory demands, these firms are working not just politically but also discursively to frame their services and technologies (Gillespie, 2007; Sterne, 2003).”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Gillespie, 2007; Sterne, 2003).”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “They do so strategically, to position themselves both to pursue current and future profits, to strike a regulatory sweet spot between legislative protections that benefit them and obligations that do not, and to lay out a cultural imagi- nary within which their service makes sense (Wyatt, 2004).”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Wyatt, 2004).”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In this article I will highlight the discursive work that prominent digital intermediaries, especially YouTube, are under- taking, by focusing on one particular term: ‘platform’. The term ‘platform’ has emerged recently as an increasingly familiar term in the description of the online services of con- tent intermediaries, both in their self-characterizations and in the broader public dis- course of users, the press and commentators.”

Page 2, Underline (Blue):
Content: “In this article I will highlight the discursive work that prominent digital intermediaries, especially YouTube, are under-taking, by focusing on one particular term: ‘platform’. The term ‘platform’ has emerged recently as an increasingly familiar term in the description of the online services of con-tent intermediaries, both in their self-characterizations and in the broader public dis-course of users, the press and commentators. The point is not so much the word itself; ‘platform’ merely helps reveal the positionthat these intermediaries are trying to establish and the difficulty of doing so.”

Page 2, Highlight (Yellow):
Content: “‘platform’”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The point is not so much the word itself; ‘platform’ merely helps reveal the positionthat these intermediaries are trying to establish and the difficulty of doing so.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As a term like ‘platform’ becomes a ‘discursive resting point’ (Bazerman, 1999), further innovations may be oriented towards that idea of what that”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Bazerman, 1999),”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “technology is, and regulations will demand it act accordingly (Benkler, 2003). Moreover, such such terms ‘institute’ a way of being: as Bourdieu (1991: 119) put it, they ‘sanction and sanctify a particular state of things, an established order, in exactly the same way that a constitution does in the legal and political sense of the term’. And using the word ‘plat-form’ makes a claim that arguably misrepresents the way YouTube and other intermedi-aries really shape public discourse online. ”

Page 3, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Benkler, 2003).”

Page 3, Underline (Red):
Content: “Bourdieu (1991: 119)”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “‘Platform’”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “This discursive positioning depends on terms and ideas that are specific enough to mean something, and vague enough to work across multiple venues for multiple audiences.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Like other structural metaphors (think ‘network’, ‘broadcast’ or ‘channel’) the term depends on a semantic richness that, though it may go unnoticed by the casual listener or even the speaker, gives the term discursive resonance.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The OED notes 15 different uses, in what I see as four broad catego- ries; the emergence of ‘platform’ as a descriptive term for digital media intermediaries represents none of these, but depends on all four.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Computational Architectural”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Figurative Political”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “All point to a common set of connotations: a ‘raisedlevel surface’ designed to facilitate some activity that will subsequently take place.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “place. It isanticipatory, but not causal. It implies a neutrality with regards to the activity, though less so as the term gets specifically matched to specific functions (like a subway platform), and even less so in the political variation. ”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Drawing these meanings together, ‘platform’ emerges not simply as indicating a func- tional shape: it suggests a progressive and egalitarian arrangement, promising to support those who stand upon it.”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “‘platform’ emerges not simply as indicating a func- tional shape: it suggests a progressive and egalitarian arrangement, promising to support those who stand upon”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In the discourse of the digital industries, the term ‘platform’ has already been loos-ened from its strict computational meaning. Through the boom and bust of investment (of both capital and enthusiasm), ‘platform’ could suggest a lot while saying very little.”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “In the discourse of the digital industries, the term ‘platform’ has already been loos- ened from its strict computational meaning. It should come as no surprise then that the term would again gain traction around user- generated content, streaming media, blogging and social computing.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “It should come as no surprise then that the term would again gain traction around user-generated content, streaming media, blogging and social computing. ”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “There has been a proliferation of ‘platforms’ just in online video: These join the blogging platforms, photo-sharing platforms and social network platforms now jostling for attention on the web.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Users, advertisers, clients”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “It is the broad connotations outlined earlier – open, neutral, egalitarian and progressive sup- port for activity – that make this term so compelling for intermediaries like YouTube as a way to appeal to users, especially in contrast to traditional mass media.”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “YouTube and its competitors claim to empower the individual to speak – lifting us all up, evenly. YouTube can proclaim that it is ‘committed to offering the best user experience and the best platform for people to share their videos around the world’ (YouTube, 2006c) and offer its You Choose ’08 project as a ‘platform for people to engage in dialogue with candidates and each other’ (YouTube, 2007a). architectural, in that YouTube is designed as an open-armed, egalitarian facilitation of expression, not an elitist gatekeeper with normative and technical restrictions. This more conceptual use of ‘platform’ leans on all of the term’s connotations:”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “This fits neatly with the long-standing rhetoric about the democratizing poten- tial of the internet, and with the more recent enthusiasm for user-generated content (UGC),”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “But YouTube has been particularly effective at positioning itself as the upstart champion of UGC. This fits neatly with the long-standing rhetoric about the democratizing poten- tial of the internet, and with the more recent enthusiasm for user-generated content (UGC),”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “amateur expertise, popular creativity, peer-level social networking and robust online com-mentary (Benkler, 2006; Bruns, 2008; Burgess, 2007; Jenkins, 2006). Of course these activ-ities, as well as the services that host them, predate YouTube. But YouTube has been particularly effective at positioning itself as the upstart champion of UGC.”

Page 6, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Benkler, 2006; Bruns, 2008; Burgess, 2007; Jenkins, 2006).”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The promise of sites like YouTube, one that of course exceeds but nevertheless has found purchase in a term like ‘platform’, is primarily focused on ordinary users. The ‘You’ is the most obvious signal of this,”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “The promise of sites like YouTube, one that of course exceeds but nevertheless has found purchase in a term like ‘platform’, is primarily focused on ordinary users. The ‘You’ is the most obvious signal of this, and has itself found broader cultural purchase, but the direct appeal to the amateur user is visible elsewhere. YouTube offers to let you ‘Broadcast Yourself’, or as they put it in their ‘Company History’ page, ‘as more people”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “YouTube offers to let you ‘Broadcast Yourself’, or as they put it in their ‘Company History’ page, ‘as more people”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “capture special moments on video, YouTube is empowering them to become the broad- casters of tomorrow’ (YouTube, 2009a).”

Page 7, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “capture special moments on video, YouTube is empowering them to become the broad- casters of tomorrow’ (YouTube, 2009a).”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “This offer of access to everyone comes fitted with an often implicit, occasionally explicit, counterpoint: that such services are therefore unlike the mainstream broadcast- ers, film studios and publishers.”

Page 7, Underline (Blue):
Content: “This offer of access to everyone comes fitted with an often implicit, occasionally explicit, counterpoint: that such services are therefore unlike the mainstream broadcast- ers, film studios and publishers.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The business of being a cultural intermediary is a complex and fragile one, oriented as it is to at least three constituencies: end users, advertisers and professional contentproducers. This is where the discursive work is most vital. ”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Curiously, tropes like ‘platform’ seem to work across these discourses; in fact, the real value of this term may be that it brings these discourses into alignment without themunsettling each other. ”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Intermediaries must speak in different registers to their relevant constituencies, posi-tioning themselves so as to best suit their interests in each moment (Gieryn, 1999). However, ‘platform’ unproblematically moves across all three registers, linking them”

Page 8, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Intermediaries must speak in different registers to their relevant constituencies, posi- tioning themselves so as to best suit their interests in each moment (Gieryn, 1999). However, ‘platform’”

Page 8, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Gieryn, 1999).”

Page 8, Underline (Blue):
Content: “‘platform’ unproblematically moves across all three registers, linking them”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “into a single agenda.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “For advertisers, YouTube can promise to be a terrain upon which they can build brand awareness, a public campaign, a product launch; for major media producers, it offers a venue in which their content can be raised up and made visible and,even better, pushed to audiences. At the same time, the evocative rhetoric of ‘you’ and UGC fits neatly, implying a sense of egalitarianism and support, and in some ways even in the political sense, i.e. giving people a public voice (Couldry, 2008).”

Page 9, Underline (Blue):
Content: “into a single agenda. For advertisers,”

Page 9, Underline (Blue):
Content: “the evocative rhetoric of ‘you’ and UGC fits neatly, implying a sense of egalitarianism and support, and in some ways even in the political sense, i.e. giving people a public voice (Couldry, 2008).”

Page 9, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Couldry, 2008).”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Policy”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” That the term ‘platform’, for describing services like YouTube, has moved beyond its own hyper-bolic efforts and into common parlance, does suggest that the idea strikes some people ascompelling. But the way in which an information distribution arrangement is character-ized can matter much more, beyond it merely fitting the necessary sales pitch or taking hold as part of the public vernacular. These terms and claims get further established, rei-fied and enforced as they are taken up and given legitimacy inside authoritative dis-courses such as law, policy and jurisprudence. ”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As society looks to regulate an emerging form of information distribution, be it the telegraph or radio or the internet, it is in many ways making decisions about what that technology is, what it is for, what sociotechnical arrangements are best suited to help it ”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “achieve that and what it must not be allowed to become (Benkler, 2003; Lyman, 2004). This is a semantic debate as much as anything else: what we call such things, what prec-edents we see as most analogous and how we characterize its technical workings drive how we set conditions for it (Streeter, 1996). ”

Page 10, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Benkler, 2003; Lyman, 2004). (Streeter, 1996).”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” As Galperin (2004: 161) argues, ‘Ideological paradigms … do not emerge ex nihilo, nor do they diffuse automatically. There must be vehicles for the creation and transmis-sion of ideas. Several organizations perform this function, among them universities, think tanks, trade groups, companies, government agencies, advocacy groups, and so on. For any policy issue at stake there is no lack of competing paradigms to choose from.’ ”

Page 10, Underline (Red):
Content: “Galperin (2004: 161)”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “YouTube’s parent company Google, in its newly adopted role of aggressive lobbyist (Phillips, 2006; Puzzanghera, 2006), has become increasingly vocal on a number of policy issues, including net neutrality, spectrum allocation, freedom of speech and political trans- parency.”

Page 10, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Phillips, 2006; Puzzanghera, 2006),”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Sometimes its aim is to highlight the role of some Google service as crucial to the unfettered circulation of information: whether to justify further regulation, or none at all, depends on the issue.”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Historically, policy debates about emerging technologies and information intermedi-aries have been marked by key structural and spatial metaphors around which regulation has been organized (Horwitz, 1989). For instance, before their deregulation the tele-phone companies were bound by two obligations: first, they must act as a common car-rier, agreeing to provide service to the entire public without discrimination. Second, they can avoid liability for the information activities of their users, to the extent that they serve as a conduit rather than as producers of content themselves. Both metaphors, com-mon carrier and conduit, make a similar (but not identical) semantic claim as does ‘plat-form’. ”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Unlike ‘platform’, there is the implied direction in these terms: bringing information from some- one to somewhere. In the age of the ‘network’, another spatial metaphor that does a great deal of discursive work in contemporary information policy debates, an emphasis on total connectivity has supplanted direction as the key spatial emphasis.”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Edges”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Whether these interventions are strategic or incidental, harmful or benign, they are deliberate choices that end up shaping the contours of public discourse online. Take, for instance, YouTube’s recent announcement (in a blog entry titled ‘A YouTube for All of Us’) that it would strengthen its restrictions on sexually suggestive content and profanity,by three means: first, the removal of videos deemed inappropriate according to a new standard; second, the assignment of certain videos to the adult category, which limits what under-age registered users can see and requires all users to click an assent to watch-ing objectionable content; third, and most troubling, the institution of technical demo-tions: ‘Videos that are considered sexually suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our “Most Viewed”, “Top Favorited”, and other browse pages’ (YouTube, 2008a). ”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “site indexes that purport to represent user judgments will in fact do so only within parameters unknown to users.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In December 2008 and January 2009, Warner Music Group (WMG) sent thousands of takedown notices to YouTube users, in what critics called a ‘fair use massacre’ (Jansen, 2009; von Lohmann, 2009). The videos targeted were not only copies of WMG-owned works, but also amateur videos using their music in the background, or musicians paying tribute to a band by playing live along with the commercial recording as a backing track (Driscoll, 2009; Sandoval, 2009). ”

Page 13, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Driscoll, 2009; Sandoval, 2009). 2009; von Lohmann, 2009). (Jansen,”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “(Driscoll, 2009; Sandoval, 2009). WMG could issue so many takedown notices so quickly only by using ContentID. This kind of content fingerprinting, being both easy and oblivious to nuance, encourages these kinds of shotgun tactics.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “But it is YouTube’s complex economic allegiances that compel it to both play host to amateur video culture and provide content owners the tools to criminalize it.”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “it is YouTube’s complex economic allegiances that compel it to both play host to amateur video culture and provide content owners the tools to criminalize it.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Conclusion”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A term like ‘platform’ does not drop from the sky, or emerge in some organic, unfettered way from the public discussion. It is drawn from the available cultural vocabulary bystakeholders with specific aims, and carefully massaged so as to have particular reso-nance for particular audiences inside particular discourses. However, these terms matter as much for what they hide as for what they reveal. Despite the promises made, ‘platforms’ are more like traditional media than they careto admit. As they seek sustainable business models, as they run up against traditional regulations and spark discussions of new ones, and as they become large and visible enough to draw the attention not just of their users but of the public at large, the pres-sures mount to strike a different balance between safe and controversial, betweensocially and financially valuable, between niche and wide appeal. ”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “A term like ‘platform’ is drawn from the available cultural vocabulary by stakeholders with specific aims, and carefully massaged so as to have particular reso- nance for particular audiences inside particular discourses.”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: ” these terms matter as much for what they hide as for what they reveal. Despite the promises made, ‘platforms’ are more like traditional media than they care”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “to admit”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “They raise both traditional dilemmas about free speech and public expression, and some substantially new ones, for which there are few precedents or explanations.”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “They raise both traditional dilemmas about free speech and public expression, and some substantially new ones, for which there are few precedents or explanations.”

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “We do not have a sufficiently precise language for attending to these kinds of interven- tions and their consequences. And the discourse of the ‘platform’ works against us developing such precision, offering as it does a comforting sense of technical neutrality and progressive openness.”

Page 14, Underline (Blue):
Content: “We do not have a sufficiently precise language for attending to these kinds of interven- tions and their consequences. And the discourse of the ‘platform’ works against us developing such precision, offering as it does a comforting sense of technical neutrality and progressive openness.”

Page 14, Underline (Red):
Content: “Berland, J. (2000) ‘Cultural Technologies and the “Evolution” of Technological Cultures’, in A. Herman and T. Swiss (eds) The World Wide Web and Contemporary Cultural Theory, pp. 235–58. New York: Routledge.”

Page 15, Underline (Red):
Content: “Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language and Social Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bruns, A. (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Burgess, J. (2007) ‘Vernacular Creativity and New Media’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, URL (consulted April 2009): http://eprints.qut.edu.au/archive/00010076/01/Burgess_PhD_FINAL.pdf”

Page 15, Underline (Red):
Content: “Gieryn, T. (1999) Cultural Boundaries of Science: Credibility on the Line. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.”

Page 16, Underline (Red):
Content: “Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.”

Page 17, Underline (Red):
Content: “Sterne, J. (2003) ‘Bourdieu, Technique, and Technology’, Cultural Studies 17(3/4): 367–89.”

Page 17, Underline (Red):
Content: “Terranova, T. (2004) Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age. London: Pluto Press.”

 

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