The Anthony D. Smith Lecture 2022: Sabina Mihelj on Platform Nations

The Anthony D. Smith Lecture 2022: Sabina Mihelj on Platform Nations

The 2022 Anthony D. Smith Lecture will be given by Professor Sabina Mihelj of Loughborough University on the subject of ‘Platform Nations’ at 1700CET on 4th April in Lecture Hall 1 in the Meerminne building on the City Campus of University of Antwerp at Sint-Jacobstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen. Attendance is free and open to all; the Lecture will also be streamed online at Facebook Live and YouTube Live.


While much has been said about the role of digital media in the proliferation of nationalism, and especially in the resurgence of exclusionary nationalist rhetoric and sentiments, we know much less about the nature and existence of nations in the digital world. For instance, how do nation-states engage in nation-building in the new communication environment? How has the growing impact of digital platforms affected the way cultural institutions engage with national audiences? How and where do ordinary platform users encounter and experience nations online? To address this gap, I introduce the concept of ‘platform nations’, understood as imagined communities whose continued existence depends, in part, on the support of digital platforms. I then focus on three key mechanisms that contribute to the formation and reproduction of platform nations: the politically and commercially motivated development of national platform ecologies; copyright legislation and nation branding strategies designed to protect and promote national cultures in the online domain; and the prevailing practices and preferences among platform users. I reflect on how these mechanisms differ from those at work in pre-digital communication environments, highlighting the influence of platform affordances and business models. I conclude with a set of methodological considerations and suggestions for empirical approaches to researching platform nations.

About Prof. Mihelj

Portrait photo of Prof. Sabina Mihelj

Professor Sabina Mihelj joined Loughborough University in 2004, having previously worked and studied in Slovenia, Hungary and Germany. Over her time at Loughborough, Sabina served as Programme Director for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in communication and media studies. She is currently Director of Research for Communication and Media, and co-led Loughborough’s REF2021 submission to the D34 panel. She is a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College, and sits on the editorial boards of several international media and cultural analysis journals.

Sabina is particularly interested in the comparative study of media cultures across both traditional and new media, with a focus on public culture, nationalism, identity, and audiences. She has written extensively on the relationship between communication, nations and nationalism, Cold War media and culture, and comparative media research. Her research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Norwegian Research Council, and the Ministry of Science and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.

Sabina also has a track record of collaboration with non-academic stakeholders. Her research on Cold War television and everyday life has also served as a basis for several museum exhibitions in South-eastern Europe, the UK and the US, and a TV documentary for BBC 4. This work provided the basis for one of Loughborough’s REF Impact Case Studies, Challenging Cold War Stereotypes. Her current work on the role of media in the rise of illiberalism in Eastern Europe, conducted with Dr Václav Štětka, involves collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union, European Federation of Journalists, and the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities.

You can find out more about Sabina at her profile on Loughborough University’s website or follow her on Twitter.