Online platforms have penetrated our societies and become the infrastructural services of our time.  Their impact on the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of life is profound and bound to increase, offering great promise yet posing risks.

The Platforms, Governance and Global Society (PGG) programme mainly focuses on two issues:

  1. The rise of online platforms as infrastructural services and their political, economic, and cultural influence;

  2. Governance in an era of platforms and a changing world order. 

We aim to examine and explain the issues to which platforms give rise. For instance: what are the implications for news, journalism and freedom of speech? how do they affect and change the existing structures and what are the consequences? how are they to be controlled and governed?

Our study of platforms includes not only the US-based giants, such as Alphabet-Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, but also the Chinese platform companies like Tencent and Alibaba. This approach will help to bridge the existing research on Western and Chinese platforms. At the moment, Chinese platforms are the closest comparable competitors to the US-based platforms in an economic sense, though currently their influence is mainly within China’s domestic market.

The other main area of research is governance. Governance refers to the setting and enforcement of standards with respect to an area of social activity. It covers social relations in all their forms: economic, political, and cultural.

Governance occurs at many levels: nationally, regionally, locally, and internationally. It takes varying forms: (1) governance by an empowered authority such as the state; (2) governance by agreement among several parties, a common feature at international and regional levels; (3) self-governance where the organization decides its own standards; and (4) more novel and emerging forms of governance, such as collaborative governance where two or more bodies, often very different in character and purpose, work together for mutual advantage.

The two core research areas are connected. Platforms pose new issues for governance, combining different models, drawing on but also undermining orthodox models. How to govern the new territory of technological innovation, especially powerful platforms situated between individual users and national governments, is an issue not only relating to the future of technology innovation, but also concerning the future of our economy and society.

Global society is the setting of our research. While we define global society as the totality of society, international, regional, national, and local, this programme has a special interest in the international perspective.