Affordances of Digital Platforms

Scholars & Thought Leaders

Laura DeNardis 

Laura DeNardis is an American author and a globally recognized scholar of Internet governance and technical infrastructure. She is a tenured Professor and the Interim Dean in the School of Communication at American University.

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia. Vaidhyanathan directs the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, which produces a television show, a radio program, several podcasts, and the Virginia Quarterly Review magazine. 

Heidi Tworek

Dr. Heidi Tworek is associate professor of international history and public policy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Her work examines the history and policy around media, hate speech, health communications, international organizations, and platform governance. 

Angela Circucci

As a researcher and theorist, Angela explores the symbolic meaning of programming languages and the intersection of institutional practice and user knowledge, with a focus on social network sites. Angela has taught many courses including New Media and Communication, User Experience Design and Research, Introduction to Mass Communication, Communication Theory, Communication Research Methods, and Mass Media Law and Ethics. She teaches at Rowan University.

Angela Xiao Wu

Trained in media and communication, but drawing much from science and technology studies, cultural sociology, and political science, Wu investigates the connections between media technologies, knowledge production, and politics. Her past research has focused on the following areas: (1) cultures and practices of data analytics, (2) media use and media (infra)structures, and (3) information technology, public culture, and post-reform China. 

Film & Video

How Do Different Social Media Platforms Affect Your Mood? (2017)

Source: Above the Noise | PBS Digital Studios

Do a quick Google search on how social media affects your mood, and the results make it seem like all the social media platforms will plunge you into depression. Facebook shows everyone’s perfect life and exotic vacations. Expertly curated selfies abound on Instagram. But, if you look at the actual research, the results aren’t that simple.

How Youtube’s algorithm distort reality (2018)

The 2016 presidential race was fought online in a swamp of disinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news. Now a Guardian investigation has uncovered evidence suggesting YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was disproportionately prompting users to watch pro-Trump and anti-Clinton videos

Source: The Guardian

Books & Articles

Youtube discriminates against LGBTQ content by unfairly culling it, suit alleges (2019)

The Google-owned site’s software targets gay and lesbian videos for takedowns, some creators say.

‘El Negro de WhatsApp’ meme, digital blackface, and racism on social media

Ariadna Matamoros-Fernandez

This paper explores how structural racism encodes itself into social media. Through the examination of a popular WhatsApp meme in Spain, I show how everyday socio-technical practices on this platform perpetuate power hierarchies based on race. As a first step, the paper links “El Negro de WhatsApp” meme with the long racist tradition of commodifying Black bodies in American popular culture and beyond. Second, I argue that encrypted services like WhatsApp facilitate and amplify what Picca and Feagin (2007) refer to as the “backstage” of racism. The article concludes outlining the challenges of private, encrypted services if we are to dismantle ‘platformed racism’.

Racial Discrimination on Airbnb: The Role of Platform Design (2020)

Michael Luca, Scott Stern, Devin Cook  

The case emphasizes the vital role played by trust among guests and hosts in the platform’s success. Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky is quoted explaining, “Access is built on trust, and trust is built on transparency. When you remove anonymity, it brings out the best in people. We believe anonymity has no place in the future of Airbnb or the sharing economy.” However, in the spring of 2016, growing evidence of widespread racial discrimination on the platform put Airbnb at risk of losing users’ trust. Chesky was faced with the challenge of reducing discrimination on the Airbnb platform while maintaining an environment of trust.

Normative interfaces: Affordances, Gender and Race in Facebook (2017)

 Angela Cirucci

Abstract: This study investigates social network site affordances and their implications for perceptions of marginalized communities. I employ Facebook as a case study and speak with young adult users to comprehend how socially marginalized groups are perceived through Facebook’s affordances. In particular, I consider: How familiar are users with Facebook’s tools and functionalities? How are issues of gender and race represented through the site’s interface? How do users conceive of gender and race? The findings suggest that gender is perceived as a more important identifier than race and that Facebook is post-racial, because of the user interface choices made.