Sociale Wetenschappen


A geopolitical perspective on digital infrastructures and democracy.

FSW Lecture by prof. José van Dijck (Utrecht University) - 29/04/2024

About the lecture

The growing pains of digitization involve intense struggles between two platform ecosystems fighting for information control: a Chinese-based and an American-based ecosystem. A handful of American Big Tech platforms have disrupted markets and labor relations, transforming social and civic practices, and affecting democracies. At the heart of the online media’s industry’s surge is the battle over information control: who owns the data generated by online social activities? While two large ecosystems fight for information control in the global online world, the European perspective on digital infrastructures is focused on regulation rather than building its own alternatives. With emerging technologies such as generative AI (ChatGPT, Bard), this infrastructural perspective becomes more poignant.

This lecture takes up two questions. First, how can we identify public values in platform societies across the globe? Values such as privacy, security, transparency, equality, public trust, and institutional soevereignty are important principles upon which the design of platform architectures should be based. Democratic principles and the common good are the very stakes in the struggle over platformization of societies around the globe. Second, the lecture focuses on what responsibilities companies, governments and citizens have in building such a sustainable platform ecosystem. Who is responsible for anchoring public values in an online world and who can be held accountable? Governments and civil society organizations try to negotiate public values on behalf of citizens and consumers.

About the speaker

José van Dijck is a distinguished university professor at the University of Utrecht (The Netherlands); she was the president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences from 2015 until 2018. She was a visiting professor at MIT (USA), University of Toronto (CAN), Stockholm University (SWE) and University of Technology, Sydney (AUS). In 2019, she received honorary doctorates from Lund University (SWE) and the University of Oslo (NOR). In 2021, she was rewarded the Spinoza Prize, the highest academic award in Dutch academia.

Van Dijck’s academic field is media studies and digital society. Her work covers a wide range of topics in media theory, media and communication technologies, social media, and digital culture. She is the (co-)author and (co)-editor of ten books and over one hundred journal articles and book chapters. Her books The Culture of Connectivity. A Critical History of Social Media (Oxford UP, 2013) and The Platform Society. Public values in a connective world (Oxford UP, 2018; co-authored by Thomas Poell & Martijn de Waal) have been distributed worldwide and were translated into Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Farsi.

Practical information

Location: Aula M.004

Date: 29/04/2024, 11:30 - 13:00

Participation is free, but online registration is mandatory