What Dead-and-Dying Platforms do for Internet Studies: Situating Technological Failure, Digital Afterlife, and the Web that Was

Muira McCammon, Lotus Ruan, Kate Miltner, Ysabel Gerrard, Kathryn Montalbano, Karolina Mikołajewska-Zając, Attila Marton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsCommunication


This panel explores internet histories through the lens of “platform death” as a way of understanding how digital communities grapple with technological failure, power dynamics, and the divergent notions of the digital afterlife. Collectively, the contributions address the cultural, geopolitical, economic, and socio-legal repercussions of what happens when various platforms fail, decline, or expire. We bring together five presentations that draw on different methods—including document analysis, semi-structured interviews, participant observation—to explore the frailty of platforms, their underlying infrastructures, and their trace data. Together, by examining and theoretically situating the histories of five different platforms (TroopTube, Fanfou, MySpace, YikYak, and Couchsurfing), we consider and complicate how the concept of “platform death” as a metaphor can help reveal the Web’s rhythmic temporality, digital media’s constant reinvention of forms, and the collision of hegemonic and fragile infrastructures in divergent cultural contexts. We ask: What are the theoretical implications of situating platforms as killable, ephemeral, precarious, or transient technologies? What—and who—kills platforms, and in what ways can they have uncertain digital afterlives and even resurrections? What can conceptualizations of dead and dying technologies tell us about the Internet’s growth and stagnation, its present and futures? What is (un)knowable about platforms that once were, and how can this knowledge inform our predictions of future technological failure? We aim to build community, collective imaginings, and future collaborations around a research agenda that centers mnemonic experimentation, comparative platform studies, and archival contestations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSelected Papers in Internet Research 2021 : The 22nd Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. Virtual Event
Number of pages21
Place of PublicationChicago
Publication date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventAoIR2021 Independence: The 22nd annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers - Online, WWW
Duration: 13 Oct 202116 Oct 2021


ConferenceAoIR2021 Independence
SeriesSelected Papers of Internet Research


  • Technological failure
  • Platform death
  • Afterlife

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