How are online platforms involved in reshaping social, cultural, political and economic relations? How might they be governed and enlisted in the service of public values and the public good? Join us for a public talk with Thomas Poell (University of Amsterdam) about The Platform Society.

The Platform Society

Individuals all over the world can use Airbnb to rent an apartment in a foreign city, check Coursera to find a course on statistics, join PatientsLikeMe to exchange information about one’s disease, hail a cab using Uber, or read the news through Facebook’s Instant Articles. The promise of connective platforms is that they offer personalized services and contribute to innovation and economic growth, while bypassing cumbersome institutional or industrial overhead.

Reflecting on The Platform Society (Van Dijck, Poell and De Waal, 2018), Thomas Poell offers a comprehensive analysis of a connective world where platforms have penetrated the heart of societies – disrupting markets and labor relations, circumventing institutions, transforming social and civic practices and affecting democratic processes. The lecture questions what role online platforms play in the organization of Western societies. How do platform mechanisms work and to what effect are they deployed? How do these mechanisms lead to the reorganization of specific economic sectors, such as news, urban transport, and education? And, how can platforms be governed in correspondence with key public values and benefit the public good?

The lecture analyzes the struggles between competing ideological systems and contesting societal actors – market, government and civil society – raising the issue of who is or should be responsible for anchoring public values and the common good in a platform society. Each struggle highlights local dimensions, for instance fights over regulation between platforms and city governments, but also addresses the level of the platform ecosystem where power clashes between global markets and (supra-)national governments take place.

Bio: Thomas Poell is Senior Lecturer in New Media & Digital Culture, Program Director of the Research Master Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, and vice-director of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies. His research is focused on digital platforms and the transformation of public communication around the globe. He has published widely on social media and popular protest in Canada, Egypt, Tunisia, India, and China, as well as on the role of these media in the development of new forms of journalism. He co-edited The Sage Handbook of Social Media (Sage, 2018) and co-authored The Platform Society (OUP, 2018).

This event is part of an ongoing seminar series on “critical inquiry with and about the digital” hosted by the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London. If you tweet about the event you can use the #kingsdhhashtag or mention @kingsdh. If you’d like to get notifications of future events you can sign up to this mailing list.



Date and time

Wed 6th March 2019
16:00-17:30 GMT


The Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre, K6.29
Strand Campus, King’s College London


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