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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“.

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. [….]

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. [….]

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];

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];

Three laws of governance in an era of globalization

Peter Harding, in the Globe and Mail1, is cited as a high-level bureaucrat — he managed six departments under five different prime ministers — who is respected by both Canadian political parties. In 2000, he received the Prime Minister’s Outstanding Achievement Award for leadership in the public service. He has now left the public service, and is free to express his opinion on globalization. He proposes three laws:

  1. Economic space is greater than political space.
  2. The country that best understands globalization wins.
  3. We are our geography.

These are interesting ideas. I’m not sure that I’m in 100% agreement with the interpretations of these laws in the newspaper column, but they do represent a departure from the preconceptions of the 20th century. Let’s think about these a little deeper.

Peter Harding, in the Globe and Mail1, is cited as a high-level bureaucrat — he managed six departments under five different prime ministers — who is respected by both Canadian political parties. In 2000, he received the Prime Minister’s Outstanding Achievement Award for leadership in the public service. He has now left the public service, and is free to express his opinion on globalization. He proposes three laws:

  1. Economic space is greater than political space.
  2. The country that best understands globalization wins.
  3. We are our geography.

These are interesting ideas. I’m not sure that I’m in 100% agreement with the interpretations of these laws in the newspaper column, but they do represent a departure from the preconceptions of the 20th century. Let’s think about these a little deeper.

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