Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

The impacts of platforms

Concerns in the larger research body of research on platforms often leads to a subset looking into the impacts of the platform economy.  Let’s try some more digests responding to questions.

  • A. Is a shift to platforms considered as disruptive innovation?
  • B. Do network effects lead to a platform economy of “winner take all”?
  • C. With digital platforms based in information systems, what are the opportunities for knowledge effects?
  • D. What is the logic of participation on a platform?
  • E. Should platform capitalism be seen as positive or negative?
  • F. As an alternative to platform capitalism, should platform cooperativism be considered?
  • G. In the larger context of the sharing economy, how might platform initiatives be categorized?

The rise of the platform economy may be described either by the metaphor of “We Don’t Know Who Discovered Water, But We Know It Wasn’t a Fish” or the fable of the “Boiling Frog“.

Platforms, an emerging appreciation

The term “platform” is now popular in a variety of contexts.  What do “platforms” mean, and what research might guide our appreciation?

Let’s outline some questions:

  • A. What came before the rise of platforms?
  • B. What types of platforms are there?
  • C. Why take a platform approach?
  • D. How do platforms manifest?
  • E. Why might a platform not be viable?
  • F. How are digital and non-digital platforms different?
  • G. What don’t researchers know about digital platforms?
  • H. What are the economic consequences of the platform economy?

The articles cited below are not exhaustive, but they may give a sense of the ballpark.

A. What came before the rise of platforms?

The industrial age was typified by descriptions of “supply chains” and “value chains”, which otherwise may be called “pipelines”. Marshall Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker, and Sangeet Paul Choudary write:

… platforms differ from the conventional “pipeline” businesses that have dominated industry for decades. Pipeline businesses create value by controlling a linear series of activities — the classic value-chain model. Inputs at one end of the chain (say, materials from suppliers) undergo a series of steps that transform them into an output that’s worth more: the finished product. [….]

From Flickr to Piwigo

As an alternative to relying on Flickr as my photo-sharing site, a migration to self-hosting Piwigo took less than 2 hours.  With the web-sharing functions of Flickr having remained stable for the past few years, I’ve discovered that Piwigo has all of the features that I need for Creative Commons sharing of my one-photo-per-day habit.

For some years, my larger private photo archives have been on self-hosted Zenphoto sites.  In 2013, the quality improvement on my smartphone cameras led me to change my practice of large-batch photographic essays, in favour of sharing more frequent (i.e. daily) images.  I had admired Flickr for their progressive licensing whereby community members could easily declare Creative Commons.  Further, even at the level of free accounts up to 1TB, their FAQ said (as memorialized from August 2013 on the Internet Archive):

Are my photos every deleted? No, your photos will not be deleted, unless you do it yourself, or fail to play by our Community Guidelines.

Are my photos ever deleted?

Not, your photos will not be deleted, unless you do it yourself, or fail to play by our Community Guidelines.

If I started with the a free account on Flickr, and reached the limit where a Pro Account was needed, I wouldn’t begrudge paying for the service.  My understanding was that if I stepped back down to an free account, not all photos would be directly accessible, but the images wouldn’t be deleted (as described in “Your photos and data on Flickr” | Zach Sheppard | May 26, 2011:

Optimism for open sourcing

The October 2018 acquisition of Red Hat by IBM gives me hope.  Both IBM and Red Hat have been champions in promoting open sourcing behaviours.

Open sourcing is an open innovation behaviour related to, but distinct from, open source as licensing.  [Ing (2017) chap. 1, p. 1].

The label of open sourcing frames ongoing ways that organizations and individuals conduct themselves with others through continually sharing artifacts and practices of mutual benefit. The label of private sourcing frames the contrasting and more traditional ways that business organizations and allied partners develop and keep artifacts and practices to themselves.  [Ing (2017) sec. 1.2, p. 5].

The label of open source is most readily recognized from software development. An open source license allows free use, modification and sharing.  Open sourcing is a norm where the resources of system internals, e.g. artifacts and practices, are shared in a community beyond the originators.  Private sourcing is coined as a norm where the resources of system internals are reserved within a privileged group.  [Ing (2017) sec. 1.3, p.6]

This deal continues a socio-economic trajectory by IBM …

  • starting in 1993 with the Lou Gerstner expectation of “open, distributed user-based solutions” after the Chantilly meeting [Ing (2017) sec. 2.3.1, pp. 55-56];

A philosophy of “becoming with” as “becoming alongside”

In foundational research, I went through a philosophical shift from “being” (in the sense of Hubert Dreyfus’ reading of Heidegger) towards “becoming”  — as I was writing a finalization of Open Innovation Learning in Chapter 9.  As I reflect more, my view of systems as living can be expressed as “becoming with“, and more precisely “becoming alongside“.

This is influenced not so much directly from philosophy, but from the ecological anthropology of Tim Ingold, as indicated in “Anthropology Beyond Humanity” in 2013.

I conclude with just two proposals.

First, every animate being is fundamentally a going on in the world. Or more to point, to be animate — to be alive — is to become. And as Haraway (2008: 244) stresses, ‘becoming is always becoming with—in a contact zone where the outcome, where who is in the world, is at stake’.

Thus whether we are speaking of human or other animals, they are at any moment what they have become, and what they have become depends on whom they are with. If the Saami have reindeer on the brain, it is because they have grown up with them, just as the reindeer, for their part, have grown up with the sounds and smells of the camp.  [….]

The Systems Approach and Its Enemies | C. West Churchman | 1979

West Churchman (1913-2004) was a Ph.D. supervisor to some luminaries in the systems sciences, including  Russell L. Ackoff, Ian Mitroff, Harold G. Nelson and Werner Ulrich.  Churchman’s 1979 book, The Systems Approach and Its Enemies, is unfortunately out of print, and is only readable on the web if you already have the text to search on.  Here, some excerpts will be surfaced that may encourage readers to seek a copy in a local library.

Preface

[….] This book is just another step in the search for the meaning of generality, in this case a general design of social systems.

There are lots of themes that can be used to describe this search. Perhaps the best one is the discovery that the usual dichotomy of x or not x never seems to display the general, because neither of the above is always so prominent an aspect of the general social system. Thus there is an immense part of social systems reality that is none of the following popular dichotomies in the current literature: rational-irrational, objective-subjective, hierarchical-nonhierarchical, teleological-ateleological, deductive-nondeductive reasoning (for example, inductive or dialectical), ineffable-effable.

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