Abstract: The concepts of (digital) platform and (digital) infrastructure have been widely used and discussed in recent media research, and in neighbouring fields such as science and technology studies (STS). Yet there is considerable confusion about these concepts and the relations between them. This article seeks to bring these concepts together more coherently by showing how “platformisation” might be understood in terms of its impacts on information infrastructure, including on the principles of openness and generativity underlying early internet architecture, and potential further effects on media and culture deriving from those impacts. To develop this perspective, we draw on research from legal studies which: (a) articulates these principles more fully than in recent media studies and STS; (b) understands infrastructures as resources subject to political contestation; and (c) in the work of Julie Cohen, interprets digital platforms as strategies for disciplining infrastructures. We discuss how such a perspective might complement approaches to digital platforms and infrastructures to be found in political economy of media and internet governance research. We then apply the perspective to a case study: the transition of online music from chaotic experiments with alternative models of distribution in the early century to a thoroughly platformised environment in the 2020s.
Keywords: digital information infrastructure; digital platforms; internet architecture; internet regulation; music streaming platforms; platformisation