Connecting all of the demand with all of the supply

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Meanwhile the Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society has published the recording of the Lecture by Philipp Staab that i mentioned here a few weeks ago:

In Staab’s analysis the key characteristic of digital capitalism is the ability of a few “leading companies of the commercial internet” (Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon) together with smaller platforms that “rotate around these mega platforms” (Uber, AirBnB, Netflix, Spotify etc) to set the rules for the the markets that they control. It is this control over proprietary markets that underpins the power of digital platforms. According to Staab “.. they are the markets. For the scope of the commercial internet, they connect almost all the supply to all the demand (everyone who has a device).”

This feels like a very good theoretical conceptualisation of the current moment and helps to explain why everyone seems to be attempting to build market places these days. It also leads straight to the question of how we can imagine technology platforms that leverage other mechanisms than (privatised) markets in order to produce societal benefits.

A very similar observation is made in this recent episode of the Track Changes podcast by Paul Ford:

It feels like the idea that everything has to be a marketplace or have a transaction built in has just taken over our industry. And I think there’s more to platform thinking and thinking about ways to connect and empower people than just that, right?

Unfortunately the subsequent discussion, while certainly interesting fails to come up with a real answer to this question.