CfP: The First Annual Conference of the Platform Governance Research Network
The discussions around platform governance can be traced back to long-standing debates on the legal, social, and material structures that constitute the Internet’s ordering. For over 20 years, scholars from multiple fields have sought to decipher this sprawling web of power struggles. However, the consolidation of a few digital platforms as central global spaces of interaction and consumption has re-oriented many of these endeavours, making them more specific but not less complex. How platforms create, enforce, and enact rules and technologies that affect billions of people around the world — and the ways in which different actors seek to affect those structures — is now a major focus of public and governmental attention. As a scholarly area, platform governance can be understood as a part of a longer-term project to explore the logics behind, and the consequences of, the “private mediation between Internet content and the humans who provide and access this content” (DeNardis, 2012).
Work on this topic now is increasingly featured at various disciplinary conferences ranging across communication, public policy, computer science, human-computer interaction, law and technology, and science and technology studies, as well as interdisciplinary conferences like AoIR, FAccT, or GIGANET. However, there still is no single venue that tries to bring together these broader communities into a more focused conversation, looking more specifically at the multifaceted and increasingly complex role that online intermediaries play in today’s platformized societies (Van Dijck et al., 2018).
The First Annual Conference of the Platform Governance Research Network
24–26 March 2021 | Online
In an effort to help foster this conversation and potentially spur new forms of collaboration, we are creating a Platform Governance Research Network. Building upon the success of a few workshops held online in the past year, including the ‘Empirical Approaches to Platform Governance Research’ workshop at the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society and the upcoming ‘Against Platform Determinism’ workshop at Data and Society, we are happy to announce a three-day online conference in late March 2021 seeking to bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers who produce work on platform governance across a variety of fields.
Research Track: March 24 and March 25, 2021
For the first two days of the conference, we welcome abstracts of 250-500 words for papers that use different theoretical or empirical methods to answer research questions related to:
- Empirical studies of platform governance in all of its forms, from the micro to the macro, utilizing a range of qualitative as well as quantitative, experimental, and/or computational methods. Suitable topics might include, but not be limited to, analyses of the practices of commercial or community platform rule-making and norm-setting, systems-based studies of automated decision-making across various types of platforms, or more focused explorations of specific topical issues such as political advertising, disinformation, or copyright.
- Policy oriented analyses of private and governmental efforts to regulate platforms across the broad categories of online content, competition policy, and data protection. Proposals might include comparative policy analyses or detailed case studies of specific regulatory frameworks and approaches, and work that focuses on under-examined cases, regulatory episodes, or regions is especially welcome.
- Normative, conceptual, or theoretical insights into aspects of platform governance that highlight gaps in current public or scholarly conceptions of platform governance. Submissions might evaluate various aspects of the current status quo from critical perspectives across a range of scholarly traditions, from science and technology studies to postcolonial and critical race theory, gender and sexuality studies, and Marxist political economy.
- The meta-aspects of scholarly work as it relates to major technology platforms, and the relations between policy, academia, and civil society in the emerging platform governance research and policy landscape. Possible submissions might include work on the best ethical practices for collaborating (or not) with industry, ways to secure privacy-preserving data access for researchers, or strategies used by civil society advocates to push industry and governments in more just directions.
Our goal will be to not only highlight the state of the research landscape as it exists at the moment, but also to identify the major limitations facing researchers from different subfields, sparking collaborations that strive to move beyond extant limitations and silos. We are particularly keen on learning more about diverse perspectives, so we encourage submissions from underrepresented groups and a diverse range of cultural and geographic backgrounds. We are especially interested in perspectives outside of U.S. and European contexts.
The precise format for presentations and panels will be determined depending on the amount of submissions received. We welcome contributions from researchers located all around the world, and will work to accommodate multiple participant timezones.
Network Building Track: March 26, 2021
On the final day of the conference, we will discuss how best to structure a platform governance research network as well as how to make it as global, diverse, and inclusive as possible. We will host a set of conversations about how to create a robust network with staying power, how it should be organized and governed, as well as how this network could best serve the community. If you are interested in being part of the network going forward, we invite you to attend this third day of sessions. (These sessions will be open to all conference attendees, and interested participants are encouraged but not required to have submitted to/attended sessions of the ‘Research Track’ of the conference to attend this final day).
For this reason, we kindly ask all participants in the conference (presenters as well as attendees) to fill out a community survey. Your responses will help us organize and structure the discussion for the forward- looking and community building component of the conference.
Submission and Participation Information:
This conference is open to all interested researchers and members of civil society and has no registration fee. We ask all prospective attendees to fill out our online participation and registration form, through which 250-500 word abstracts and survey responses can be submitted.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Deadline for Abstract Submissions: Midnight (anywhere on earth), February 15, 2021
Conference Program and Acceptances Announced: March 1, 2021
Conference: March 24-26, 2021 (Half-Days)
Conference Organizing Committee
1st Conference Host Institutions
Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Waterloo
Centre for Media, Technology, and Democracy (MTD), McGill University, Montreal
Center for Technology and Society (CTS), FGV School of Law, Rio de Janeiro
Data and Society Research Institute, New York
Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), Berlin
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The HIIG researches the development of the internet from a societal perspective with the aim to better understand the digitalisation of all spheres of life.