Beyond platform capitalism: critical perspectives on Facebook markets from Melanesia

Geoffrey Hobbis*, Stephanie Ketterer Hobbis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This article argues for a need to move beyond studies of platform capitalism and inter-capitalist struggles to also account for inter-economic struggles, the platformization of longstanding primarily non-capitalist societies, the same kind of societies that have conceptually inspired discussions of platforms as hi-tech gift economies. Based on longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork on digital transformations among the horticulturalist Lau of Malaita, Solomon Islands, we analyse horticulturalist adoptions and adaptations of Facebook. Specifically, we consider how informal bush markets are being digitized through online Buy and Sell groups. We show how Solomon Islanders use Buy and Sell Facebook groups to continue moral economic practices that emphasize the accumulation of wealth not in a capitalist, but in a relational sense, where economic activity primarily serves the creation and affirmation of relationships. Our findings, thus, challenge universalizing claims about the nature of platforms as one that is necessarily about the commodification, in a capitalist sense, of all social relations. Simultaneously, they call for more research on experiences of platformization at the margins of global capitalism and the ways in which not-so-average users are making platforms their own.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • buy and sell
  • Facebook
  • informal markets
  • non-capitalist societies
  • platform capitalism
  • Solomon Islands

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