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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Paul Langley

Langley, P. & Leyshon, A. Platform Capitalism: The Intermediation and Capitalisation of Digital Economic Circulation. Finance and Society. 2016;online early.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

A new form of digital economic circulation has emerged, wherein ideas, knowledge, labour and
use rights for otherwise idle assets move between geographically distributed but connected
and interactive online communities. Such circulation is apparent across a number of digital
economic ecologies, including social media, online marketplaces, crowdsourcing,
crowdfunding and other manifestations of the so-called ‘sharing economy’. Prevailing accounts
deploy concepts such as ‘co-production’, ‘prosumption’ and ‘peer-to-peer’ to explain digital
economic circulation as networked exchange relations characterised by their disintermediated,
collaborative and democratising qualities. Building from the neologism of platform capitalism,
we place ‘the platform' — understood as a distinct mode of socio-technical intermediary and
business arrangement that is incorporated into wider processes of capitalisation — at the
centre of the critical analysis of digital economic circulation. To create multi-sided markets and
coordinate network effects, platforms enrol users through a participatory economic culture
and mobilise code and data analytics to compose immanent infrastructures. Platform
intermediation is also nested in the ex-post construction of a replicable business model.
Prioritising rapid up-scaling and extracting revenues from circulations and associated data
trails, the model performs the structure of venture capital investment which capitalises on the
potential of platforms to realise monopoly rents.