Platform Poiesis

Technological platforms interfere with politics by generating new political relations and shifts in power. This emergence of political relations via platforms - or platform poiesis - creates contingencies that states strive to account for by measuring and modelling the impact of platforms on society. In this project, we tell a historical account of how this capacity for platform modelling developed, focusing on the Eurasian context. We depart from the late 19th century with the consequences that the Trans-Siberian Railway brought for the Russian state, which was unprepared to model platform poiesis. We then focus on the emergence of computing in the Soviet Union, where futile efforts to resist platform poiesis culminated in a new sensibility toward it, and to the subsequent emergence of Chinese computing, which involved unique geopolitical conditions for platform poiesis. This history brings us to the modern-day People’s Republic of China’s Big Earth Data Platform, itself embedded within the larger BRI infrastructure construction project, through which China plans to strategically harness the capacity of platform poiesis. Reading history and the present moment together, we suggest how to understand statecraft that has the capacity for platform modelling at its disposal, and what such accountability requires.