In this article, we explore the relation between platform activities and their usage practices. Taking departure from predefined activities offered by social media platforms, this paper inquires into what may happen if platform features cater to opposing user practices. The paper investigates whether the data they produce can be considered as ‘bad’ platform data, just as Harold Garfinkel conceptualized ‘bad’ clinical records, and does so by engaging with the socio-technical history of Facebook’s Like and Twitter’s retweet and favourite button and their associated cultures of usage.
In a first step, we question popular bottom-up narratives that present platform features as appropriations of emergent user practices, such as in the case of the retweet button. In a second step, we draw on ethnographic research on the German Favstar sphere – a group of popular Twitter amateurs with specific cooperation practices – to trace the divergent and at points even contradictory user practices in the case of the favourite button. In both cases, the politics of data visibility are of central importance, and a third group of actors appears besides the platform and its users, which recombines existing platform data into new contexts according to specific practices of usage for features. Such ‘satellite platforms’, we argue, can provide ‘good’ platform-political reasons for platform activities to produce ‘bad’ data.