This updated version of the Research Paper contains major revisions incorporating several recent changes including references to Meta, Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, NFTs, DMA and as well as the war in Ukraine.
Western governments seem to be asking the question of their sovereignty more and more, without there being much agreement on the concept within the public discourse, nor on that of the territory associated with it. When digital platforms come to disrupt established institutional arrangements by their own powers, they force us to revisit all these terms, because they do not claim in any way sovereignty or even territory.
And yet, they hold in their hands essential levers to orient all economic activity, focusing on the attention of the public and even call into question the laws or representative political systems as a principle of regulation of societies. Their principles of “rough consensus and running code” to which must be added “apologies”, allow them to exercise rather a suzerainty that can be described as topological as it is based on their centrality in the network of networks. But what will they do with such unprecedented historical power? And how will the nation-states react?
We are at a historic turning point. Will the systemic platforms (and the three main ones, Google, Amazon and Facebook) make a return to the territorial fold by accepting the sovereignty of States and playing their game within this framework? To the contrary, will they adopt an even more deterritorialized rush, towards the extension of their predictive and speculative control over our futures, mastering time and rhythms more than space? To answer these questions, the precise documentation of platform strategies presented here is based on a radical revision of our concepts of the power of geopolitics.
Dominique Boullier, is a sociologist and linguist, who has been a university professor in sociology at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) since 2009. He teaches there at the School of Management and Innovation (“Innovation and digital: concepts and strategies”), at the School of Public Affairs (“Pluralism of Digital Policies” and “Social Theories of Propagations”), at the Urban School (“Digital Strategies for European Cities”) and at the Executive School where he is responsible for the social sciences module of the Master Digital Humanities. During the years 2015-2019, he was a professor at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) where he taught UX (User Experience) and directed the Social Media Lab.
At Sciences Po, he was in charge of the scientific coordination of the medialab with Bruno Latour from 2009 to 2013. He directed or created several research laboratories: Costech (UTC where he was a professor from 1996 to 2005), the User Lab Lutin at the Cité des Sciences in Paris (Lutin from 2004 to 2008), the Lares at Rennes 2 University where he was a professor from 2005 to 2009. He had also created his company in technical documentation and human-machine interfaces In the 90s.
He is the author of several books on urban issues (Digital Urbanity, L’Harmattan, 1999; La ville-evenement, PUF, 2010; Events and Security, Presses des Mines, 2013), on digital issues (Sociology digital, Armand Colin, 2019, 2nd edition; Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis, Open Edition Press, 2012) or on questions of conversation and the media (Television as spoken, L’Harmattan, 2004; Le livre -exchange, C&F editions, 2018) as well as more than one hundred academic articles. He created and directed the journal Cosmopolitiques from 2002 to 2012. In 2020, he published “How to get out of the grip of social networks” with Le Passeur publisher and is preparing a “sociology of propagation” with Armand Colin.