The App is not the Territory: Writing to the edge of Platformism

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

This research will attempt to define a new cultural and socio-economic movement we will tentatively call ‘Platformism.’ We will define Platformism as a contemporary overarching meta-narrative driven by the networked communities and economies made possible by software apps which can be considered at once discrete platforms, and forming part of broader ecosystems affecting almost every sphere of human experience. By delineating and mapping Platformism as an evolving system of complex and disputed territories, our purpose is to explore how creative practices including writing and literature can function in, through and against the platform.

Beginning with the 2020 Covid emergency travel and movement restrictions, there has been a dramatic acceleration of the already significant mass-migration toward digital platforms. Networked platforms have multiplied in form and function, and (according to the hyperbole of some companies offering these services) cater to almost every aspect of human being. Many of these platforms have been proposed as alternatives to traditional spaces for social and professional activities. Individuals, groups and communities have experienced a kind of ‘forced experiment’ during this period as they adopted services made possible by online and networked technologies, through computer and mobile telephony, often for the first time.

Contemporary writers and other creative practitioners are no exception to this digital mass-migration. Not surprisingly, many artists have embraced Platformism; its promise of new feelings through innovative software; its claims of ‘exposure’ through access to massive user-bases; its non-stop attention/affirmation cycles through ubiquitous always-on technologies. We will argue against accepting the platform as a neutral, arbitrary and isolated substrate passively awaiting inscription by the user/artist. From this perspective, an understanding of Platformism can be useful for observing and developing art and literature in, through, and against the platform.

We will present a speculative Platformist ‘manifesto’, algorithmically generated through the statistical analysis of a large number of ‘terms of service’ documents taken from existing software and hardware platforms. This Platformist Manifesto resignifies the legal agreements of social media sites (such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) with hardware platforms (such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Playstation, and Nintendo) into a general declaration which can reveal underlying intentions, motives and beliefs.

This generative manifesto will also reveal the metanarratives of Platformism, allowing the reader to form a mental mindscape. These topographies may suggest the limits of the Platform, or at least offer pathways to navigate its boundaries. Our purpose in mapping this territory is to cultivate opportunities for commoning our struggles and priorities, to forge artistic and social positions within these topographies. To return writing to the edge.


ELO 2021: Platform possibilities and beyond, May 28

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Daniel Johannes...