After describing the evolution of the term, the essay provides an overview of the history of digital platforms from the origins of Web 2.0 to the current centrality of personal data gathering for business purposes. The transformation of the network, originally conceived as a public and collective infrastructure, into a privatized space – whose aim is the production of commercial value for the benefit of few big tech companies – is the starting point for discussing the different perspectives on data exploitation and on resistance practices and strategies to prevent the indiscriminate appropriation of common human and cognitive resources. The abstraction of regular patterns from past information with the aim of an algorithmic interpretation and prediction of future data configurations, exercises an instrumental expropriation of collective capabilities. The infrastructure of platforms offers the chance of ignoring all differences, unique characteristics, and plural relationships of the subjects under observation. These strategies of appropriation concern future events and preferences, which is perceived as a colonization space, in which past data constitutes the framework in which predictions become prescriptions and manipulations of forthcoming events. Digital platforms produce some relevant consequences: acting at distance, lack of transparency, denial of accountability for decisions making, standardization of representation, and creation of a synthetic dimension that replaces the world of personal and social relations, excluding contingency and unpredictability from observed phenomena. The effect is the impossibility of a reality check of predictions, outside the digital infrastructure. Moreover, platform capitalism aims at excluding the free market dynamics from its economic transactions, constructing an extractive space devoid of any regulation, due to the combination of remote action and of the natural monopoly tendence, that allows an easy hegemony. Indeed, the print-based regulative models of modern states configure their authority over a space delimited by boundaries within which to exercise power, but digital transactions, while having a concrete and massive industrial materiality, are not held to the rules of a single territory. Now, there are just a few legal tools set up to sanction legal entities, whose headquarters are distant from where the deployment of their commercial interests are unfolding. Therefore, there is an urgent need to rethink the regulatory system and the institutions that can assert their power to protect the rights of workers, citizens, and users of digital platforms.
Numerico, T. (2023). Le piattaforme digitali: tra estrazione e astrazione. PAROLECHIAVE, Vol 9, 7-24.