PhD defense Fernando van der Vlist: How can we understand the power of digital platforms like Facebook and Google?


On 16 September, Fernando van der Vlist will defend his thesis 'The Platform as Ecosystem: Configurations and Dynamics of Governance and Power'. 

What exactly are digital platforms?

Many people regularly use large digital platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. Fernando van der Vlist explores what exactly these so-called 'Big Tech platforms' are. And how can we identify and understand the features of their power?

The platform as an ecosystem

These big questions can be answered more clearly if you see the platforms as a set of ecosystems, Van der Vlist writes, as not merely the platforms themselves but especially their larger ecosystems are important for understanding the unique features of platform governance and power.

The ecosystems are formed by the various groups of users, such as people with a personal account, but also software and app developers, marketers, companies and business partners.

All these groups help to expand the ecosystem. They build their own software tools, products and services 'on top' of the existing platform interfaces, and partly determine how they look and develop, while the platform itself tries to keep control.

Regulating internet companies

In order to properly understand the power and influence of platforms, it is important to map their larger ecosystems, Van der Vlist argues.

After all, such ecosystems have become the dominant technological, organisational and governance model for digital platforms over the past fifteen years. A better understanding of the characteristics of platform ecosystems is not only interesting for scholars, but can also help policymakers and authorities regulate powerful Internet companies.

Start date and time
End date and time
Hybrid: online and for invited guests in the Utrecht University Hall
PhD candidate
Fernando van der Vlist
The Platform as Ecosystem: Configurations and Dynamics of Governance and Power
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. J.F.T.M. van Dijck
Prof. C. Gerlitz