Veranstaltung: Colloquium of the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices (BoAP) with Anne Helmond & Fernando van der Vlist, online, 11.09.2023, 16:00

Colloquium on the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices

Dear colleagues,
we invite you to join the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices (BoAP) Colloquium. Based on a collaboration of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Aalto University, and Technical University of Berlin, this bi-monthly colloquium provides an open platform for an international network of researchers interested in BoAP and related methodological and analytical approaches. Its goal is to contribute to strengthening the robustness of research designs in STS and the sociology of technology and innovation. Each event features the presentation and discussion of a research project that traces the biographies of sociotechnical systems across multiple locales and extended timeframes, often linking multiple studies and scales of analysis. The colloquium will take place online on September 11th, 4 pm (CEST). It will feature a talk by Anne Helmond (Utrecht University) and Fernando van der Vlist (University of Amsterdam) titled Platform historiography: Studying the evolution of digital platforms and apps. The speakers will discuss the use of web archives and software repositories as resources for analyzing the biographies of continuously changing digital technologies and systems, drawing on several case studies.

About the talk:
This presentation discusses the research opportunities for historical studies of apps and platforms by focusing on their distinctive characteristics and material traces. It showcases the importance and scope of web archives and software repositories for creating collections of archived platform and app resources. Platforms and apps notoriously resist archiving due to their ephemerality and continuous updates. As a result, their histories are being overwritten with each update, rather than being documented and preserved. Yet, the routine overwriting of digital objects and their data through incremental software updates presents both a notable challenge and a rich area of research for internet historians—at least if those changes are documented by these digital objects themselves or preserved by web archives. Despite the challenges associated with archiving social media and apps, many material traces of platforms and apps are remarkably well-preserved. These resources are identified as essential primary sources, allowing technological artifacts like platforms and apps to write their own histories and “biographies” assisted by web archives and software repositories. This contributes to a growing interest in media biography, encompassing “software biography”, “website biography” and “platform biography”. To provide further insight, the presentation includes several case studies, highlighting approaches for studying platform evolution, platform governance, and the process of platformisation.

About the speakers:
Anne Helmond is Associate Professor of Media, Data & Society at Utrecht University. She is part of the research groups Governing the Digital Society, App Studies Initiative, and Digital Methods Initiative where she examines the processes of platformization, algorithmization, and datafication from an empirical and historical perspective by focusing on the material and programmable (data) infrastructures underpinning these processes. Her research interests include digital methods, software studies, platform studies, platformization, platform governance,
app studies, critical data studies, and web history.

Fernando van der Vlist is Assistant Professor of Cultural Data & AI in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He is actively involved in various initiatives, including the App Studies Initiative, the Digital Methods Initiative, and the Public Data Lab. His research focuses on the study of digital media ecosystems, platforms and apps, data, and artificial intelligence (AI) in culture and society.

Zoom link and contact:
Zoom PW: 099802

If you are interested in the activities of the research network, or would like to present at the colloquium, get in touch at