The Political Economy of Platformisation

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University of Leicester

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The paradox of the sharing/collaborative economy, defined simultaneously as part of capitalist production, but also an alternative to it, is complicated further by the fact that contemporary research into the political economy of platformisation relies mostly on platforms’ own data and has been produced by platforms themselves, or in dependent collaboration with, due to the proprietary attitude platforms have about their data. The owners of platforms rely on future regulatory decisions based on such research, decisions which are set to be fought in parliaments, in courts and on the streets.

Despite the obvious differentiation between large privately owned gig economy platforms and smaller cooperativist-style community-oriented platforms and the various in-between modalities, the management of internal and external labour is not a mere exercise in producing value, as it not only affects structural conditions cutting across industrial sectors, but it also produces particular ideological and cultural production discourses, currently involving the recuperation of the commons and community, as moral justification registers.

The role of state and capital in backing non-profit platforms as providers of public service, making up what the state cannot provide and corporations can redeem as social responsibility tokens, is a red herring concealing the dismantling of local work forces into transnational online labour markets, which are unregulated in terms of liability, taxation, insurance and social protection.

In relation to the innovation vs. social justice debate in platformisation politics, the promise of objective algocratic governance through appeals to the magic of algorithms (search, coordination and transaction cost reduction) has so far failed to deliver increased employment and enhanced productivity, whilst new labour laws are radicalising workers across the globe, struggling against unsustainable capital accumulation relied upon unicorn notions of an environmentally conscious circular economy.

In this context, the colloquium invites contributions which investigate online labour markets, workers’ socio-demographic profiles, employment status, histories, earnings, motivations, how they consider the choice between gig and other forms of work and how they assess the experience of working for digital labour markets, as well as issues of control, algorithm management, and working conditions through qualitative in-depth studies, quantitative studies , or work that looks more specifically at regulations and labour law for these new forms of employment across sectors and particularly in the creative industries (see ‘Toward a Research Agenda’ in Cristiano Codagnone, Fabienne Abadie and Federico Biagi, 2016, The Future of Work in the Sharing Economy, Joint Research Centre, Science for Policy Report, European Commission, p.59).

We welcome both academic and non-academic paper presenters and participants.

The Colloquium brings together scholar-activists to Leicester from Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and across the UK, with extended invitations to developing countries with eye to emerging digital economies.

Drawing from the Workshop ‘The Collaborative Economy, Cultural Production and the Commons’ at UOC in Barcelona in June 2016 (organised by researchers from Barcelona UOC, Bordeaux 3, Leicester, Lorraine, and Paris 8), the colloquium is set to more broadly address, the following areas of discussion:

  • The euphoria surrounding the sharing economy is that is socially connected, more transparent, fairer and lower-carbon.
  • The debate surrounding the ‘sharing economy’, as to whether it will deliver prosperity with the creation of more flexible work opportunities to more people or contribute to the dismantling of the social contract under neoliberal capitalism.
  • The role of the sharing economy in the “superficial” legitimisation of contemporary capitalism, and potentially to the effective redesigning of real processes of exploitation and domination, i.e. digital sweat labour.
  • The impact of Uberization on local economies and the labour market force wherein they operate.
  • Alternative value creation models geared toward the commons and new digital economic and organizational forms resisting the inequalities reproduced by corporate players of the sharing economy.
  • How crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platforms operate from the point of view of their industrial strategies and potential changes in production cycles.
  • What (potentially new) forms of labour organisation they imply and how they may contribute to a shift from the figure of the consumer towards that of an amateur-producer-consumer.
  • Whether they contribute to cultural democratisation and diversification or, on the contrary, if they reinforce global, industrial norms, in the guise of user and citizen empowerment.
  • How these new modes of production and funding are legitimised, with regard to the media representations they bring about, their uptake by public and corporate institutions.
  • What opportunities these platforms offer for socio-economical experimentation, both on national and international levels, and how this is of interest to corporate players, public bodies and third sector players, notably with regard to the broader questions of the collaborative economy and commons-based modes of governance.

Submissions

Submit an abstract of 200 words by November 1st to Dr Athina Karatzogianni athina.k@gmail.com

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University of Leicester

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LE1 7RH

United Kingdom

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