Platforms and Institutions in the Post-Pandemic University: A Case Study of Social Media and the Impact Agenda
In this paper we argue that digital platforms play an important role within higher education, not least of all when Covid-19 has made remote working the norm. An increasingly rich field of theoretical and empirical work has helped us understand platforms as socio-technical infrastructures which shape the activity of their users. Their insertion into higher education raises urgent institutional questions which necessitate dispensing with the individualised mode of analysis and instrumentalised conception of technology which often accompany these topics. We outline an alternative approach through a case study of social media in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, exploring the incorporation of platforms into research evaluation. Our findings suggest social media is invoked differently across disciplinary groupings, as well as platform metrics being cited in a naive and problematic matter. We offer a neo-institutionalist analysis which identifies a tendency towards isomorphism, with perceived ‘best practice’ being seized upon in response to uncertainty. We suggest such an approach is urgently needed given the role which digital platforms will play in building the post-Pandemic university.