18,103 CfP: The First Annual Conference of a Platform Governance Research Network, March 24-26, 2021

CfP: The First Annual Conference of a Platform Governance Research Network, March 24-26, 2021

This call is an open invite to researchers and institutions (especially those outside of North America and Europe) to join our efforts in building a new research network that aims to coalesce a global conversation about platform governance, while highlighting underrepresented groups and disciplines.


 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 platforms like COCONET and conferences like AoIRFAccT, or GIGANET. However, there still is no single venue that tries to bring together these broader communities into a more focused and global 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), and research by the most affected communities often remains excluded (Costanza-Chock, 2020).

 In an effort to help foster this conversation and potentially spur new forms of collaboration, we are creating the 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 recent ‘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 methods and 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 encourage submissions from underrepresented groups and from 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 and grow a platform governance research network as well as how to make global inclusion and diversity explicit in its aims. Digital and human rights organizations have long conducted research and advocacy; yet those conversations too often occur in spaces siloed from scholarly discussions, which themselves frequently focus on Europe or North America. How could a new research network explicitly seek to remedy these issues? What are the possibilities of a stronger connection between scholarship and civil society (re: research and advocacy) on platform governance? 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.

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.

 If you are interested in being part of and shaping the network going forward, we invite you to attend this third day of sessions. We welcome adding more individual and institutional partners and are actively working to include them in the planning of this network and conference. If you are interested, please contact us.

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 conference@platgov.net with any questions.

Key Dates 

Deadline for Abstract Submissions: Midnight (anywhere on earth), February 22, 2021

Conference Program and Acceptances Announced: March 8, 2021

Conference: March 24-26, 2021 (Half-Days, exact timing TBA)


 Research Track

Sana Ahmad

Robert Gorwa

Tomiwa Ilori

Clara Iglesias Keller

Daniel Kreiss

João Magalhães

Shannon McGregor

Eugenia Mitchelstein

Sonja Solomun

Marcelo Thompson

Network building track

Deepti Bharthur

Robyn Caplan

Anita Gurumurthy

Ivar Hartmann

Amélie Heldt

Ashnah Kalemera

Christian Katzenbach

Dia Kayyali

Taylor Owen

Heidi Tworek

Collaborating 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
Center for the Study of Media and Society (MESO), Buenos Aires
Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Kampala
Data and Society Research Institute, New York
Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), Berlin
IT For Change, Bangalore

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