Call for Papers: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University

December 13th-14th, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

In recent discussions of capitalism, the notion of the ‘platform’ has come to play a prominent role in conceptualising our present circumstances and imagining our potential futures. There are criticisms which can be raised of the platform-as-metaphor, however we believe it provides a useful hook through which to make sense of how socio-technical innovations may be leading to a new phase of capitalist accumulation. To talk of ‘platform capitalism’ in this sense does not exclude consideration of parallel notions such as digital capitalism, data capitalism and surveillance capitalism but rather seeks to frame these considerations through a focus upon the platform as a novel assemblage.

While research into social media and the sharing economy is relatively advanced, the increasing centrality of platforms to the operation of the university remains understudied and undertheorised. Our conference seeks to rectify this, raising the possibility of the ‘platform university’ as a provocation to stimulate discussion concerning platforms, the commercial and academic science they depend upon and contribute to reshaping, as well as their implications for the future of the university. We see the university as a case study for inquiry into platforms, but also as a horizon of change within which the social sciences seek to address these processes. 

We invite papers which address the full range of questions posed by these considerations, including topics such as:

  • The ontology of platforms
  • The epistemology of platforms
  • Methodological challenges in studying platforms
  • The transformation of the social sciences
  • The politics and political economy of platforms
  • Platforms as evaluative infrastructures
  • Platform education and the platform university 

There will be a keynote by Ben Williamson on The expanding data infrastructure of higher education: public-private policy networks and platform plug-ins.

We welcome abstracts of 500 words or less by July 31st 2018, sent to mac228@cam.ac.uk. Please include a brief biographical note, as well as three key words to categorise your submission. We also plan to publish a select set of papers as a special issue or edited book and are in conversation with journal editors and publishers. We hope to have limited travel and accommodation funding available for unfunded PhD students and post-docs but cannot confirm this at present. 

Follow the Platform Capitalism reading group remotely

Our intensive one month Platform Capitalism reading group begins next month. All are welcome to attend in person and please get in touch if you’d like advice about travelling to the university. However it will also be possible to follow the reading group remotely, thanks to Naomi Barnes. If you’d like to do so, please join the Slack group created by Naomi where further details will be posted in advance of the reading group. We’d particularly encourage people to blog their thoughts about the reading and we will distribute any posts to all participants in advance of each week’s session.

Our one month Platform Capitalism intensive reading group

In recent discussions of capitalist transformation, the notion of the ‘platform’ has come to play a prominent role in conceptualising our present circumstances and imagining our potential futures. There are many criticisms which can be raised of the platform metaphor, however we believe it provides a useful hook through which to make sense of how social, economic, political, cultural and technological factors are collectively contributing to systemic transformation

This intensive five week reading group explores platform capitalism, the growing focus on the platform and its implications for sociological and educational research. Each session will be an informal discussion of two papers, chapters, essays or talks:

The meetings will take place from 4pm to 6pm in a room to be confirmed in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge. This is a fifteen minutes walk from Cambridge train station and we welcome all attendees. We would appreciate if you could e-mail your intention to attend to mac228@cam.ac.uk so we can update you with the confirmed room booking and further details.