Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
RN18_07: Labour and Employment in Platform Capitalism
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Romina Surugiu, University of Bucharest
Location: UP.4.209
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road

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Airbnb And The Platform City: An Ambiguous Overlap Between Digital Workers And Citizens.

Lou Therese Elisabeth Brandner, Stefania Parisi

Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

As a socio-economic actor within contemporary urban space, the digital hospitality platform Airbnb has created a network of hosts offering real estate listings for short-term rental. While the platform has undergone a widespread professionalisation, it is still often considered part of the so-called sharing economy; currently, Airbnb is propagating the idea of hosts renting out (part of) their own living space as home sharers or Airbnb citizens, positioning hosts as a hybrid form between autonomous platform workers and part of an altruistic grass-root society.

This project builds on the notion of digital capitalism and its particular facet of platform capitalism, adding the dimension of platform citizenship (Parisi, 2018) as an evolution within the neoliberal frame. It explores the ways Airbnb hosts perceive their own role in relationship with the platform, and related political-economic processes, focusing on the shift from the perception of themselves as workers to that of members of the “Airbnb citizenship”. We focus in a comparative perspective on the neighbourhoods of Neukölln (Berlin) and San Lorenzo (Rome) – two new urban tourism hotspots – as well as on digital “home sharer” profiles, choosing a qualitative research approach to analyse Airbnb hosts’ conditions and self-perceptions as workers in relation to the concept of platform capitalism.

First findings seem to confirm that hosts undertake extensive self-branding efforts, balancing professionalism and informality to attract guests. Their Airbnb activities require high flexibility with the need to always be connected. In line with conceptualisations by Fuchs (2017) and Srnicek (2016), despite the platform’s insistence on the “Airbnb citizenship” narrative with a focus on community, “home sharers” de facto experience their platform work rather as self-employed entrepreneurialism.

Changing Nature of Work and Workplaces in “Digital Capitalism”: The Emergence and Growth of Coworking Spaces

Adem Yesilyurt

Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Nature of organizations, work and workplaces significantly changes with the changing relationship of work with time and space, particularly because of the rising flexibility. Accordingly, coworking spaces have emerged and proliferated around the world in the last decade. “Coworking” as a concept was first used in 1999 by Bernie DeKoven in order to describe the collaborative work through computers and new technologies. Yet, contemporary “coworking” concept was first used in order to describe a physical workplace for independent and remote workers in a casual environment in 2005 by Brad Neuberg, a computer programmer who established the first coworking space in San Francisco. These spaces offer an alternative work setting combining open physical space with the characteristics of the third place (community, flexibility and social ties) and features of traditional office space (Wi-Fi, office tools, security, and consistently available space). With this combination, independent workers which constitute the fastest growing group in the labour market have started to prefer coworking spaces as an alternative to home-working and semi-public third spaces such as libraries and cafés. Since then, coworking is rapidly becoming a global urban phenomenon particularly among freelancers, creative workers, academics and micro-businesses. There exists a newly emerging literature on these spaces but mainly from a mainstream celebratory framework. This paper examines the coworking spaces and tries to situate them in “digital capitalism” from the Marxist political economy perspective. It also highlights that coworking spaces may have an emancipatory potential if they share the values and practices of commons.

Platform Cooperativism and Social Change.

Marisol Sandoval

City, University of London, United Kingdom

Platform cooperativism proposes to create an alternative to the corporate sharing economy based on a model of democratically owned and governed co-operatives. The idea sounds simple and convincing: cut out the corporate middleman and replace Uber with a service owned and managed by taxi drivers themselves, create a version of AirBnb run by cities, or turn facebook into a platform democratically controlled by all users.

This paper discusses the ambivalences of platform cooperativism, exploring both the movement’s potentials to subvert digital capitalism from the inside and the risk of being co-opted by it. Platform cooperativism aims to foster social change by creating a People’s Internet and replacing corporate owned platforms with user owned co-operatives. It yokes social activism with business enterprise. As a result, the movement is shaped by tensions and contradiction between politics and enterprise, democracy and the market, commons and commercialisation, activism and entrepreneurship.

This contribution explores these tensions based on a Marxist perspective on the corrosive powers of capitalist competition on the one hand and a Foucaultian critique of entrepreneurialism on the other. It concludes with a reflection on the politics of platform cooperativism, drawing out problematic implications of an uncritical embrace of entrepreneurialism and highlighting the need to defend a politics of social solidarity, equality and public goods.

Three Interpretive Lenses on the Role of Subjectivity in Platform Capitalism

Tatiana Mazali1, Emiliana Armano2, Maurizio Teli3

1Politecnico di Torino, Italy; 2Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy; 3Aalborg University, Denmark

In the light of the expansion of digital communications, interdisciplinary efforts to understand contemporary capitalism are growing, in which the observation and study of existing platforms are in dialogue with the production of new technologies. The paper describes three interpretative lenses relevant to the analysis of subjectivity in platform capitalism, focusing on the relational and hybrid processes producing the contemporary digital subjects in factories, in the ubérisation of work, and in the design of alternative platforms.

The so-called “Industry 4.0” focuses on process innovation in relation to manufacturing platforms, reshaping the complex relationship between machines, people and information. In particular, a socio-technical analysis will be proposed of the impact on work of innovations that enable industrial platforms, IoT systems and smart machinery. On another side, the critical vision that emphasizes the ubérisation performed by the lean platforms help to highlight and theorize the ongoing deregulation, starting with the French debate and referring to critical studies on logistics. In an action research mode, recent efforts on platform cooperativism and digital commons open new questions, both for the practice of technological design and implementation, and for the understanding of the social and economic conditions in which design takes place.

In these three interpretative lenses, all the attention is placed not so much and not only on the technological dimension of the platforms' capitalism, but rather on relational processes – in particular on the logic of connection/disconnection and on connectivity – on the hybridization between human and technology, and on the production of new subjectivities.

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