Upcoming Presentation

Association of American Geographers, San Francisco 2016

Panel: Toward a Geographical Software Studies 1: Political economy and infrastructures

Time: Wednesday, 3/30/2016, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM

Paper TitlePlatform Capitalism: The Speculative Value of ArcGIS


At a time when industries are struggling to monetize the diversification of information flows in the digital economy, the transition from a software as a service model to a platform takes on crucial importance. Platforms are sold not as technological infrastructures but consumer-driven business models that result in a monopoly over the market. This paper situates the newest iteration of Esri’s software within the Facebook-era of platform development to understand the ways in which “platform thinking” appeals to hyped but illegitimate ethical claims of the “sharing economy;” promises which are ultimately productive to the profit-seeking activities and maintenance of powerful gatekeepers. This includes considering marketed appeals to user value and creating the optimal market for platform adoption through open standardization; for which I consider Esri’s long-term support of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), an international non-profit organization set to standardize geospatial data. Democratic promises and practices hide the move towards “platform capitalism” where those holding a monopoly structure the use and types of digital information being produced, distributed and consumed.