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Using Web Archives to Chronicle Platform Evolution

North Wing B4
22/03/2018 (16:00-18:00)
For further information please contact Dr Jonathan Gray - 

Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam) and Fernando van der Vlist (University of Siegen and University of Amsterdam)

Thu 22 March 2018, 16:00 – 18:00


In this talk we explore the utility of web archives to chronicle the evolution of platforms and their ecosystems. Platforms are a type of ‘boundary infrastructure’ serving multiple user types and communities of practice. For example, they provide graphical interfaces to end-users while providing different, technical interfaces to developers, marketers, and advertisers. Some of these technical interfaces, such as application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs), offer different modes of access to the platform, its data, and functionality. We employ these interfaces to examine platforms as situated entities engaging in relationships with other platforms, firms, and industries in areas like infrastructure, publishing, marketing, and advertising. In particular, we focus on ‘platform boundary resources’, which enable disparate communities of practice to cooperate across social worlds. At the same time, these resources facilitate the formation of partner networks while also embedding platforms within larger ecosystems of software and apps. In this talk, we examine the development of a number of platform boundary resources using archived digital traces to chronicle the evolution of a single platform and its ecosystems. We also reflect on the methodological opportunities and challenges of using web archives for writing histories of platforms and ecosystems.

Anne Helmond (@silvertje) is Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She is a member of the Digital Methods Initiative and App Studies Initiative research collectives where she focuses her research on the infrastructure of social media platforms and apps. She currently holds a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for the project ‘App ecosystems: A critical history of apps’ (2017–2020). More info:

Fernando van der Vlist (@fvandervlist) is doctoral candidate and research associate, Collaborative Research Centre “Media of Cooperation” (University of Siegen); lecturer in New Media and Digital Culture (University of Amsterdam); research associate, Digital Methods Initiative; and co-founding member, App Studies Initiative. He is also an independent graphical information designer and a former member of Utrecht Data School (Utrecht University). More info:

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