Platform Politics: paper submission | 14th February 2011

Simon Collister Department of Politics & International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, TW20 0EX Dan McQuillan Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London; London SE14 6NW; UK.

'What are the particular forms of platform politics and how can we theorize such forms and practices?'

Platforms as assemblages of resistance: a case study of hybridised media activism during the Egpytian uprising Abstract Chadwick (2007) and Chadwick and Stanyer (2010) have identified and started to plot a series of shifts in media and political activist repertoires (Tilly, 1995) characterised by a complex intermingling of platforms. They argue that this hybridity is directly driven by the emergence, rapid growth and adoption of Internet-based, social networked technologies and tools in parallel with a contingent change in the patterns of behaviour and normative political values by web-enabled citizens. We contend that this hybridity offers a powerfully constructive way of analysing political activism and mobilization in an era of Platform Politics . This approach challenges the assertion that the rise of proprietary, primarily commercial platforms as primary interfaces of the Internet will restrict political expression and activism by proposing a new form of heterogenous platform politics that expresses itself through a complex hybridisation of commercial platforms, open platforms and other digital and analogue and on and offline spaces. Building on Chadwick and Stanyer s work we will seek to establish a deeper theoretical understanding of this hybridization by drawing on Manuel DeLanda s recent work on assemblage theory. DeLanda (2006) articulates a social ontology that facilitates an interpretative framework based on the identification and analysis of multi-variant materialsemiotic assemblages.


We propose adopting and testing this theoretical approach through an analysis of the hybrid political repertoires played out during the recent uprising in Egypt which saw a fluid and rapid transition of political information production and sharing as well as activism spanning on and offline 'platforms' (McQuillan, 2011). We believe Egypt is a potentially fruitful case study as it offers us a way of interpreting and analysing assemblages of hybrid political repertoires from a dual perspective. That is: the way on which activists (re)assembled political platforms and networks during the uprising, as well as the way in which the state, government and other strategic actors attempted to counter-act or territorialize (DeLanda, 2006) these assemblages in order to exert control. By doing so we aim to highlight the possible, optimistic implications of a networked, hybridised media environment for political activism and, in particular, for post-authoritarian societies.

References: Chadwick, A. (2007). Digital Network Repertoires and Organisational Hybridity. Political Communication, 24 (3):283 301. Chadwick, A. (2009). New Challenges for the Study of eDemocracy in an Era of Informational Exhuberance. I/S: Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society 5 (1): 9-41. Chadwick, A. & Stanyer, J. (2010). Political Communication in Transition: Mediated Politics in Britain s New Media Environment. Unpublished paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, September 2 5, 2010. DeLanda, M. (2006). A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. Continuum: London. McQuillan, D. (2011). New Social Networks With Old Technology - What The Egyptian Uprising Tells Us About Social Media . Forthcoming. Tilly, C. (1995). Contentious repertoires in Great Britain, 1758 1834. In M. Traugott (Ed.), Repertoires and cycles of contention (pp. 15 42). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.