Comment on Alina Kontareva “The Role of Data in Digital Platforms: from Data Collection to Regulatory Debates”

Comment by Olga Galanova

On Thursday 20 October, Alina Kontareva gave a presentation on the role of data in the Russian internet platform Yandex. Although Alina would not describe herself as an STS scholar, working mainly in the field of strategic management and innovation studies, her goal was to get feedback from STS participants interested in the role of data in the platform’s business model and expansion. With this in mind, her presentation was a challenge to frame the project for the STS audience.

While Alina Kontareva’s full data set is Russian competitive firms in search (Yandex), e-commerce (Ozon) and social media (VK, OK), her presentation focused mainly on Yandex, specifically on its historical development as an organisational form and corporate governance.

Similar to the European market, which is fragmented in terms of languages, national preferences, regulatory systems, legislation and standards, Yandex seems to be, in her opinion, “the Google of Russia”, allowing users to access very similar services in Russian. Considering this, Alina’s research strategy is not so much to make a comparison and find out the specifics of Yandex, compared to other internet platforms, but rather to apply a secondary literature on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat to describe similar processes in the Russian platforms she studied. Finally, Yandex has also gone through the same paradigm, “from collecting data on user transactions to integrating this data into the business model, e.g. by adding more “sides” such as advertisers, content creators and services that price users’ attention and divert user traffic from competitors through additional user engagement.

As Alina concluded, nowadays “data is the new oil” and companies are looking hard at organising the infrastructure for data generation and processing. Many interesting STS research questions and strategies can arise from this consideration. One of these concerns the conceptualisation of the relationship between platforms and data, focusing on the questions “What do Russian platforms do with data? And how does data manage platform functions?” This aspect involves a detailed examination of the infrastructures of different platforms and the impact of their functions on content and on the emergence of new on- and offline practices and processes.