From Convenience Stores to Platformed Conveniences: Towards a Global Analysis of “Lean Convenience”

GDS Lecture by Marc Steinberg


On-demand digital services from video streaming on-demand to digital payment services, often mediated by smartphones, are globally described by academics, journalists, and the companies themselves as providing convenience. Within the current stage of platform capitalism, convenience is the dominant rhetoric that at once hails the consumer with 24/7 access to content, and also justifies the just-in-time work conditions of precarious labor. In this talk Marc Steinberg proposes a critical and historical analysis of this uninterrogated concept of convenience.

Cross-sectoral and transational analysis

Responding to a call for media studies to take global supply chains and non-Western media industries more seriously, it offers a cross-sectoral and transnational analysis of the just-in-time infrastructures that support the feelings of convenience associated with digital platforms. It does so via a focus on an overlooked object: the Japanese convenience store.

The Japanese convenience store

The Japanese convenience store offers a technological and organizational lineage of what Steinberg calls “lean convenience” that informs the smartphone-centric model of on-demand digital services. The convenience store further offers a critical site from which to theorize the aesthetics of interface that mediates feelings of digital convenience. As the smartphone is the common access point to digital services in much of Asia and the Global South, it is crucial to consider the historical development of the smartphone within histories of video streaming services. To do so we must go back the brick-and-mortal convenience stores from which the smartphone and its associated model of lean convenience has emerged globally.


Marc Steinberg is Professor of film studies at Concordia University, exploring the impact of digital platforms on media and media industries today. His ongoing research encompasses the impact of platforms, apps, and "super apps" on cultural production and media organization, along with the development of theories surrounding platform capitalism. Additionally, he investigates the significance of convenience within the platform economy.

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Kromme Nieuwegracht 80 - Room 1.06 (Van Ravensteinzaal)
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