Building Platform Urbanism: Data, Design and Property Development

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Digital Geographies Specialty Group
Organizers: Scott Rodgers
Chairs: Scott Rodgers

Call for Submissions

We intend to organize 1-2 paper sessions, depending on quantity and quality of submissions. If you would like to propose a paper presentation, please email an abstract of 250 words to both Susan Moore ( and Scott Rodgers ( by 6 October 2019.


In recent years digital platforms have become increasingly involved and invested in designing and building urban environments. Some notable examples include Sidewalk Labs’ data-driven redevelopment proposals for Toronto’s eastern bayfront, Facebook’s 1500-resident company town built within its Menlo Park campus, and a number of new landmark office developments, such as Google’s 1000-foot-long ‘landscraper’ under construction in London.

This session focuses on what is at stake in these kinds of deliberate interventions in the urban built environment, by and for digital platforms. Geographers and others have already extensively explored how digital platforms have had myriad implications for urban spaces, for example in food logistics (e.g. Deliveroo, UberEats), transportation (e.g. Uber, Lyft), property markets (e.g. Airbnb) or neighborhood politics (e.g. Nextdoor, Facebook). These dynamics between platforms and the urban arguably signal an emergent ‘platform urbanism’ (cf. Barns 2020; Rodgers and Moore, 2018; Stehlin et al., 2020)

In this session, we are interested in a less-researched facet of such a platform urbanism: the more intended efforts of digital platform companies, or agents anticipating their interests, to design and/or construct particular built forms and new urban spaces. We will explore the extent to which such built forms and spaces might express the qualities and ideals of digital platforms. And conversely, the ways in which design and development processes have become increasingly tailored to anticipate and support such qualities and ideals. Is there something specific about platforms – as digitally-mediated, data-driven, cloud-based entities – that gives rise to particular designs or built environments? And how do these new urban spaces relate to emergent trends and conditions of possibility within and between the spheres of urban design, planning, real estate, development and governance?


Barns S (2020) Platform Urbanism: Negotiating Platform Ecosystems in Connected Cities. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rodgers S and Moore S (2018) Platform urbanism: An introduction. Mediapolis: A Journal of Cities and Culture 4(3): Available at:
Stehlin J, Hodson M, Kasmire J, et al. (eds) (2020) Urban Platforms and the Future City: Transformations in Infrastructure, Governance, Knowledge and Everyday Life. London: Routledge.

Contributions may address these broad questions with reference to a wide range of related phenomena, including for example: workspaces, residential neighborhoods, retail or entertainment districts, arts or cultural venues, data centres, public spaces, leisure facilities and infrastructures, spatial plans, architectural designs, conceptual visualizations, and emergent discourses in relevant design or built environment fields. Pertinent conceptual interventions are also welcome.


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