Digitization is transforming cultural practices, from friendship, intimacy and sexual relations, to the construction, targeting, and surveillance of publics. Digital platforms and mobile apps, such as Facebook, Tinder, YouTube, Instagram, Netflix, the Russian platform VK, and the China-based WeChat, TikTok, and Tantan, have rapidly become central to the production, circulation, consumption, and monetization of culture. The complexity and scale of these changes require active collaboration across a wide variety of disciplines, including economics, the social sciences and the humanities. With this in mind, the GDC will build on and further strengthen existing interdisciplinary and cross-Faculty collaborations within UvA and beyond to identify vital topics, shape research agendas and develop innovative methods.
Led by researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, GDC is designed to maximize such interdisciplinary collaboration. The initiative is directed by Thomas Poell (Media Studies) and Marieke de Goede (Political Science), together with Monika Kackovic (Entrepreneurship), Olav Velthuis (Sociology), Jeroen de Kloet (Media Studies), and Nachoem Wijnberg (Amsterdam Business School).
There are three main areas of inquiry within GDC. Consumption & Participation covers shifts in how people connect with each other, express their identities, and develop tastes and preferences. Production & Labour focusses on new types of platform-based work, as well as shifts in market structures and worker protections. Finally, Security & Citizenship examines how digitisation enables new modes of public expression and collective action, while also facilitating data-driven forms of surveillance. A key objective across all areas isto bring in perspectives and comparisons from beyond the West.
To build a strong (local and global) research community on these areas of investigation, the GDC organizes several events, soirees, research seminars and an annual conference. Moreover, GDC offers a seed funding program, providing research fellowships and event grants.
To systematize the inquiry within and across these three work packages, the RPA will focus on four cross-cutting processes, which have been at the center of scholarship on the social, cultural, and political implications of digitization and platformization. This will facilitate the discussion and collaboration between researchers working within the different work packages.
The first process concerns the reconfiguration of market relations within and between cultural fields and economic sectors. Research demonstrates that the development of digital platforms generates network effects that lead to a concentration of economic power. Platforms operate as markets, connecting large numbers of cultural producers and consumers. This leads to the following research questions for the three work packages:
Second, the RPA examines the construction of data infrastructures. Digitization depends upon systematic collection, algorithmic processing, and categorization of data through digital platforms, mobile apps, and the internet more generally. These technical processes entail important decisions concerning in/exclusion in databases, dataflows and conditions for data sharing. These processes of datafication are anything but neutral, but exist in complex interdependencies with content and (censored) cultures of expression. This raises a number of questions:
Finally, we investigate how the digital and digitization are represented and imagined. The impact of digitization is very much shaped by how individuals and institutions understand and relate to digital technologies and data. Initially, platforms and mobile applications were perceived as emancipatory technologies and digital data as traces of the social. Over the past years, this imaginary has been critically questioned and complicated. This leads us to the following questions: