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  • DemTech @ ICA 2022

    1 December 2022

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    Several members of our research team recently participated in the 2022 International Communication Association conference held in Paris. The conference provided a valuable platform for our team to showcase their research papers.

    The team presented several papers at the conference, covering a range of topics including the use of local platforms in the context of protest and the pandemic, communication strategies of anti-vaccination actors, online toxicity towards politicians and vaccination coverage in state-controlled media.

    Yung Au represented the team with the paper “Protest, Pandemic, & Platformisation in Hong Kong: Towards Cities of Alternatives”, which was the Winner of the Best Student Paper Award in the Activism, Communication and Social Justice (ACSJ) Interest Group. Read the full paper here.


    This paper explores the variety of alternative, local platforms that flourished in Hong Kong during 2019–2020, a tumultuous time which was shaped by the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. It explores the app and platform landscape by tracing the differences between local platforms, platforms made in Hong Kong, and mega platforms, platforms owned by international technology giants such as Google and Facebook. It examines this along two axes: the differences on (1) “platform logics”: what alternative organising logics are possible within this landscape? And on (2) “platform mobilities”: how do local platforms compete and co-exist with global conglomerates?

    In particular, the paper excavates the disparate logics and mobilities in the array of (a) social media platforms, (b) shopping aggregator/city guide platforms, and (c) ride-hail/delivery platforms that grew in tandem with local socio-political rhythms of life in the city. This includes the differences between a “growth-at-all-cost” logic versus the incentives that encourage tailored services to a very specific user-base. Likewise, the disparities that emerge when extraction of data is not the priority – and instead, when the aim is to retain as little data as possible. Similarly, it gives examples of what platforms could look like when they are not centrally characterised by capital accumulation, value-extraction, and race-to-the-bottom logics.

    This paper thus highlights the vast range of alternative platform possibilities and argues for the importance to think more critically about what platforms we are platforming, where we look to when we think of innovation, and what we forgo in a landscape starved of options. In putting the range of creative local platforms in dialogue with mega-platforms, this paper joins the larger movement urging for a better space for alternatives to flourish.

    The team was also represented by Kate Joynes-Burgess and Aliaksandr Herasimenka who, together with Yung Au, presented the paper “Political Economy of Online Misinformation Campaigns: The Hybrid Strategies of Anti-Vaccination Actors” co-authored by Bright, J., George, A. and Knuutila, A.

    Last, but not least, Alexandra Pavliuc and Kate Joynes-Burgess presented the paper “Online Identity-based Toxicity Towards Canadian Politicians: Understanding Vectors of Vitriol” and Michael Schliebs, who presented “Winning Hearts and Minds During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Vaccination Coverage in Chinese and Russian State-Controlled Media” co-authored by Mona Elswah; Anna George; Aliaksandr Herasimenka; Aleksi Knuutila; Alexandra M. Pavliuc; Jonathan Bright and Philip Howard.

    You can see the conference program here.

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