Microsoft Research Webinar | Platform Biography: A framework for analyzing the structures and dynamics of social media
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Platform Biography: A framework for analyzing the structures and dynamics of social media

Social media platforms have become influential in every sphere of communication, from the intimate and mundane to the public, professional, and political. It’s tempting to view a platform as a single “technology”—a static object that can be cast as a causal agent of societal change. But a closer look reveals that platform companies, their technologies, and the cultures that form through and around them constantly push against and reshape one another. If platforms are always changing, then how do we theorize, study, and compare them?

In this webinar, based on the book Twitter: A Biography, Microsoft Senior Principal Researcher Nancy Baym and Queensland University of Technology Professor Jean Burgess introduce an original approach to this problem: the Platform Biography, a systematic framework for analyzing social media platforms. The framework provides a toolbox of concepts and empirical methods to diagnose patterns of past and emerging change in the cultures, politics, and governance of platforms. The Platform Biography approach can be used and understood by researchers, students, and everyday users without privileged insider access to social media companies. Through its application to Twitter, Burgess and Baym will model how the approach can be used to study other platforms and apps.

In this webinar, you’ll learn how to:

  • Develop strategies for observing and understanding how user practices shape a platform’s technologies and business model, even as those forces shape user practices
  • Identify the elements continuously influencing one another to make a platform
  • Collect appropriate materials to conduct a Platform Biography
  • Narrow analytic focus to a platform’s most distinctive features

Nancy Baym is a Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New England. A social scientist, she’s the author of several books, including Twitter: A Biography (co-authored with Jean Burgess), Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection, and Personal Connections in the Digital Age, as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. She’s been recognized with the Frederick Williams Prize for Contributions to the Study of Communication and Technology, awarded by the International Communication Association, and the naming of the Nancy Baym Book Award by the Association of Internet Researchers and received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Information Technology at the University of Gothenburg.

Jean Burgess is Director of the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology and Associate Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society. Her research focuses on the social implications of digital media technologies, platforms, and cultures, as well as new and innovative digital methods for studying them. In addition to more than 100 journal articles and book chapters, she is the author, co-author or editor of six books, including Twitter: A Biography, YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, and The SAGE Handbook of Social Media.

*This on-demand webinar features a previously recorded Q&A session and open captioning.