SOI Discussion Paper: Platform Architectures

21. Januar 2022

In der Reihe Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Organisations- und Innovationssoziologie ist das Diskussionspapier »Platform Architectures. The Structuration of Platform Companies on the Internet« (PDF) erschienen. Abstract:

Today’s internet is shaped largely by privately operated platforms of various kinds. This paper asks how the various commercially operated communication, market, consumption and service platforms can be grasped as a distinct organizational form of enterprise. To this end, we make a basic distinction between (1) the platform-operating companies as organizing and structuring cores whose goal is to run a profitable business, and (2) the platforms belonging to these companies as more or less extensive, rule-based and strongly technically mediated social action spaces. While platform companies are essentially organizations in an almost archetypical sense, the internet platforms they operate constitute socio-technically structured social, market, consumption or service spaces in which social actors interact on the basis of detailed and technically framed rules, albeit, at the same time, in a varied and idiosyncratic manner.

The thesis of this paper is that the coordination, control and exploitation mechanisms characteristic of the platform architectures are characterized by a strong hierarchical orientation in which elements of co-optation and the orchestrated participation of users are embedded. In this hybrid constellation, the platform companies have a high degree of structure-giving, rule-setting and controlling power—in addition to exclusive access to the raw data material generated there. While this power may manifest, at times, as rigid control, direct coercion or enforceable accountability, for the majority of rule-obeying users it unfolds nearly imperceptibly and largely silently beneath the surface of a (supposed) openness that likewise characterizes the platforms as technically mediated spaces for social and economic exchange. 

Platform Architectures

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