Date: Friday 23 September 2016
Chair: Marc Steinberg
The title for the conference elicits two questions: what is a platform? And what - or where - is a society? This panel addresses both of these questions, through two angles. First, it addresses the discussion of platforms in a media studies context (including a consideration of the relation between media studies’s use of the term platform, and the widespread use of the term within management studies and economics). Second, it focuses on the question of the “where” of the platform society - inquiring in particular about the relation of platform to the question of the Asia, both as region and as a place. Most platform discourse is located firmly in the West, with examples such Google and Amazon predominant. But what happens when this presumed geography of platforms is expanded and called into question? What happens if the platform is thought in regional terms - here deploying the two senses of the term as (1) local context, that is, a country in particular, such as China, India, or Japan; and (2) the grouping of multiple countries into geocultural entities such as Asia? What might the regional models of media unfolding developed within Area studies and media studies over the past two decades have to contribute to questions around of the politics and geopolitics of platforms? Do we find the same media platforms everywhere, or do Asian platforms and the negotiations around them force us to modify our theoretical basis of what a platform is, and modify the research questions we ask of it? How, for instance, might the circulation of microSD cards in India in conjunction with particularly designed DVD players, or the production of "IP cinema" by Chinese IT giants, or Japanese mobile Internet services modulate platform discourse, posit specific conjunctions with content, and produce distinct forms of the platform society? And what, more generally, might media studies approaches to Asian platforms offer us in thinking critically and geopolitically about the emergence of platform societies?
These are some of the questions this panel addresses, in an attempt to correct the geographical biases of the studies of platforms, and to rethink platform theory from the angle of the regional - whether this is taken in the colloquial sense of “from elsewhere” within the geopolitical imaginary, or in the wider sense of Asia as a region.