The Epistemology of Digital Platforms

22 May 2017, 14:00 - 16:00

Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building

Free and open to all but Online Registration is required. Limited places.

Dr Jean-Christophe Plantin (London School of Economics)


Existing scholarship has already debunked the rhetoric of digital platforms as “neutral intermediaries“ to show, on the contrary, how they shape communication practices, online interactions, and the circulation of information more generally. This talk follows such move by interrogating the increasing role digital platforms play in shaping knowledge in society, and focuses on scholarly data sharing. It contrasts how traditional data archives and recent digital platforms “take care” of scholarly data to allow their circulation and reuse. Relying on a theoretical framework that models the increasing overlap between digital platforms and infrastructures, and based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in the two settings, this comparison between “old” and “new” data sharing configurations brings two results. First, infrastructures and platforms are each based on a different conception of data, respectively data "as a good,” “broken” by default and that require to be “cleaned” before circulation vs. data "as a service” that require minimal curation and maintenance to be made available through APIs. Second, while being open to any type of data and disciplines, the material and discursive configuration of digital platforms promotes an epistemological model of science as “programmable,” highly compatible with “big data” research but discarding other research practices.




Part of the Ethics of Big Data Research Group Series

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