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IM948 - Platform Economy, Society & Culture

20/30 CATS

Easter Vacation

Module Convenor

Prof David Stark

Introductory description

In this module you will learn about the opportunities and challenges opened up by the growing role of the platforms in contemporary society. You will be introduced to key concepts for understanding the distinctive economic, cultural and media features that make the platform model the distinguishing organizational form of the first part of the 21st Century. Some have argued that platforms can be understood as combinations of markets, hierarchies, or networks. Those ideas have promise. But it is more insightful to understand the platform model as its own social form.

Your learning will be supported through exploration of real-world examples of the operation of platform. The module will be intensive: you will be able to take advantage of immersion into the conceptual and practical challenges of the platform economy. The module is structured by topic -- with readings, lectures, and seminars on a given theme each morning followed group work in the afternoon in which your team be given an assignment to investigate a real world aspect of that topic.

Special focus will be on algorithmic management as an attempt to deal with the challenge of how to control assets and activities that are on the platform but not part of the firm. As an assemblage of people, devices, and software, algorithmic management is best studied with interdisciplinary methods. Other highlighted topics include ratings and rankings, playlists, user evaluations, and the politics of regulation using a range of methods. The combination of lectures, seminars, and assignment-based work will equip you to recognise, analyse, and understand how platforms are reshaping work, culture, and politics.

Module aims

The overarching objective of this module is to enable students to critically evaluate claims about the platform model and the political coalitions around it.

The module is designed to help contextualize the economic, cultural, and technological features of the platform model in order to understand how platforms are key forces in changes in the structure of work, cultural life, and politics.

By necessity interdisciplinary, the module will help students to value the distinctive contributions of their own areas of specialization while gaining appreciation of others who have different skills sets.

Introduced to conceptual problems through readings, lectures and seminar discussions, students will be daily challenged to devise research strategies for investigating these problems in real-world settings. Your efforts in this module should help prepare you for work in the interdisciplinary teams that you are likely to encounter in your work life.


For 20 CATS

  • 30% Group presentation
  • 70% 3,000-word research essay

For 30 CATS

  • 20% Group presentation
  • 80% 5,000-word research essay

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

More and more of our daily activities are carried out on platforms. How did they become so ubiquitous and so powerful? Platforms are not just economic entities, they are also cultural forms. How do these economic, social and cultural forms intertwine? How are the multi-sided interactions on platforms coordinated? What are the new regimes of visibility that are taking place on platforms? Students will be exposed to real-world problems and challenged to devise innovative research strategies to study them. The module comprises lectures and seminars on platform as organizational form; algorithmic management; algorithmic curation of playlists; platform policy regulation; and coalition politics. These are complemented by group projects on data collection and analysis, as well as group projects on research design and critical reflections on methodology.

Introductory online session

Session 1 Platforms and Algorithmic Management

Session 2 Who’s Paying Attention to Whom? Platforms as a new regime of visibility

Session 3 Competitions, Ratings and Rankings

Session 4 Algorithmic curation of a new cultural product – Playlists

Session 5 Platform Political Model(s) : Who’s in Alliance with Whom?

Session 6 Summing up: group presentations.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • -- Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the platform model and its political, economic, and cultural aspects as an important part of society today.
  • -- Demonstrate an appreciation of how diverging methods can illuminate complex problems in real world settings that cut across economic, culture, and technology;.
  • -- Gain experience working in an interdisciplinary team with others who have different skill sets.
  • -- Demonstrate the use of various methods to understand the social coalitions affecting platform regulatory policies.

Indicative reading list

Platform as Distinctive Form

Gillespie, T. (2010). The politics of ‘platforms’. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347-364.

Plantin, J-C., Lagoze, C., Edwards, P.N., & Sandvig, C. (2018) Infrastructure studies meet platform studies in the age of Google and Facebook. New Media & Society, 20(1), 293310.

Castelle, M. (2016). Marketplace platforms or exchanges? Financial metaphors for regulating the collaborative economy. Economic Sociology_The European Electronic Newsletter, 17(3), 1426

Algorithmic Management

Curchod, C., Patriotta, G., Cohen, L., & Neysen, N. (2020). Working for an algorithm: Power asymmetries and agency in online work settings. Administrative Science Quarterly, 65(3), 644676.

Kornberger, M., Pflueger, D., & Mouritsen, J. (2017). Evaluative Infrastructures: Accounting for platform organization. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 60, 7995. DOI: 10.1016/j.aos.2017.05.002

Vallas, S.P. & Schor, J.B. (2020). What Do Platforms Do? Understanding the Gig Economy. Annual Review of Sociology, 46, 273294.

Playlists as Ranked Lists

Prey, R. (2020a). Locating Power in Platformization: Music Streaming Playlists and Curatorial Power. Social Media + Society, 6(3).

Bonini, T., & Gandini, A. (2019). “First Week Is Editorial, Second Week Is Algorithmic”: Platform Gatekeepers and the Platformization of Music Curation. Social Media + Society, 5(4), 111.

Prey, R. (2020b). Performing Numbers: Musicians and their Metrics. In D. Stark (Ed.) The Performance Complex. Competition and Competitions in Social Life (pp. 241259). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Occupational structure

Enriquez, D. & Vertesi, J. (2020), Managing Algorithms: The partial automation of middle management and its implications for gig worker. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, Princeton University.

Vertesi, J., Goldstein, A., Enriquez, D., Liur, L. & Miller, K. T. (2020).“Pre-Automation: Insourcing and Automating the Gig Economy.” Sociologica, 14(3).

Political Business Models, Alliances and Regulation

Rahman, K.S., & Thelen, K. (2019). The Rise of the Platform Business Model and the Transformation of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism. Politics & Society, 47(2), 177204.

Plantin, J. C., & de Seta, G. (2019). WeChat as infrastructure: The techno-nationalist shaping of Chinese digital platforms.Chinese Journal of Communication, 12(3), 257273.

Thelen, K. (2018). Regulating Uber: The Politics of the Platform Economy in Europe and the United States. Perspectives on Politics, 16(4), 938953

Important Registration Information:

CIM Students

  • Please first discuss your optional module choices with you personal tutor during the personal tutor meetings and get their approval
  • Then complete and submit the optional module choice webform available in the CIM welcome page
  • The webform opens on Wednesday 29th September at 14:00 BST and closes on Thursday 30th September at 15:00 BST
  • If there are any queries, please get in touch with Clare (PG Coordinator) via 

External Students

  • Computer Science – Please register your interest in the CIM module with the PG Administrator in your home department – Ms Sharon Hayes – by Week 1: Thursday 7th October at 17:00 BST
  • All other external students - Please contact the CIM PG Coordinator (Clare) via email ( to request your optional module choice by Week 1: Wednesday 6th October at 17:00 BST.


  • Please be advised that you may be expected to have access to a laptop for some of these courses due to software requirements; the Centre is unable to provide a laptop for external students.
  • Please be advised that some modules may have restricted numbers and places are allocated according to availability.
  • Please note that a request does NOT guarantee a place on the module and is subject to availability.
  • Gaining permission of a member of CIM teaching staff or a member of staff from your home department or filling in the eVision Module Registration (eMR) system with the desired module does NOT guarantee a place on that module.
  • Requests after the specified deadline will not be considered.
  • The CIM PG Coordinator will get back confirming your place in the module by Friday 1st October (For CIM students).
  • For external students - Only after confirmation of a place from CIM PG Coordinator can students’ or their home departments confirm their registration on eVision/MRM. Registrations by students who have not received confirmation of a place from CIM will be rejected via the system.

NOTE – The above-mentioned registration deadline also applies to the CIM optional modules running in Term 2. We will consider registrations again in the first week of Term 2, but only in relation to modules where there is availability.

We are normally unable to allow students (registered or auditing) to join/leave the module after the second week of it commencing.