Platform Intimacies

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganising a conference, workshop or event series


Platform Intimacies is a research working group hosting research workshops and invited talks following an inaugural event in November 2020.

The growing power of big tech companies and the way digital media are transforming the societies in which they proliferate has generated a set of powerful critiques of the platforms that mediate access to online space.

Digital platforms organise our intimate relationships. They are
“programmable digital architecture designed to organise interactions between users [sic] public entities and corporate bodies.” (Djick, et al., 2018). Their infrastructures do not just connect people and other social actors, they shape these relationships in ways that meet and frustrate our most intimate needs, and tailor them to meet the needs of datification and commodification.

Platforms concentrate power, this much is clear, but they also facilitate new structures of feeling and forms of togetherness that are hard to conceptualise, as exploitation and commodification often translates into an active sense of user-empowerment. The ease with which users can
navigate the complex infrastructures that underpin the data-driven and personalised web in ways that facilitate work, surveillance and exploitation, is in itself the product of a new form of togetherness that has scarcely been conceptualised. By interacting with a chatbot or following a recommendation, users do not merely interface with a computer algorithm, they also indirectly commune with a set of radically anonymous and unmet humans, whose data was used to train
the machine.

Against the backdrop of this rapidly shifting technological, intellectual and social landscape this workshop turns to the loosely defined term “platform intimacy” to conceptualise the paradoxical feeling of “safety/trust that enables humans to tolerate and actively cultivate the intrinsically unequal power dynamic that structures them in digitally networked environments” (Senft / Muller; unpublished work). This wider problematic will form a mutual point of discussion to advance research that can break new conceptual ground while remaining rooted in the concrete practices, forms of togetherness and cultural imaginaries that shape online space.

● How does datafication and cloud computing intersect with the feelings of trust, convenience, paranoia and power that mediates our commerce with machines?
●How does it complicate established conceptions of digital labour, surveillance capitalism, participatory culture and the much-cited idea that online networks generate new forms of “Imagined Communities”?
● How does platform intimacy intersect with the interplay of “capitalism, colonialist thinking, loneliness and an abusive stance against the environment” (Odell 2019) that gives rise to
online attention economies?
Period17 Nov 20202021
Event typeWorkshop
LocationSydney, AustraliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal