Forthcoming
Niels van Doorn
Autonomy

From a Wage to a Wager: Dynamic Pricing in the Gig Economy

This is a contribution to a collection of policy briefs entitled 'Platforming Equality', commissioned by Autonomy

This is a contribution to a collection of policy briefs entitled 'Platforming Equality', commissioned by Autonomy

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From a Wage to a Wager: Dynamic Pricing in the Gig Economy
2020-07-13
Niels van Doorn
Eva Mos
Jelke Bosma
Futures of Work

Disrupting ‘Business as Usual’: Covid-19 and Platform Labor

This article evaluates the impacts of Covid-19 on platform-based gig work. It notes a shift in the service market towards on-demand delivery at the expense of ride hailing and domestic cleaning. Moreover, the public-private partnerships that…

This article evaluates the impacts of Covid-19 on platform-based gig work. It notes a shift in the service market towards on-demand delivery at the expense of ride hailing and domestic cleaning. Moreover, the public-private partnerships that platform companies have entered into with the public administration in NYC and other contexts indicate that platforms are becoming essential infrastructure, not just for service provision, but also for safeguarding the social reproduction of vulnerable groups. The consolidation of platform companies' business interests and social stature hides from view the struggles of the workforce that shoulders massive risk with little social protection.

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Disrupting ‘Business as Usual’: Covid-19 and Platform Labor
2020-07-27
Niels van Doorn
Work Organization, Labour & Globalisation

At what price? Labour politics and calculative power struggles in on-demand food delivery

This article, part of the special issue of Work Organization, Labour & Globalisation on "The Algorithm and the City", asks what can be gained by making calculability a pivotal demand for wage politics in gig economies characterised by…

This article, part of the special issue of Work Organization, Labour & Globalisation on "The Algorithm and the City", asks what can be gained by making calculability a pivotal demand for wage politics in gig economies characterised by dynamic fee structures. It examines how a small group of Berlin-based food delivery workers attempted to challenge Deliveroo's market power by building their own makeshift calculative equipment to help them ‘reverse engineer’ the company's fee pricing algorithm. It then documents the difficulties these ‘riders’ experienced when attempting to translate their fight for calculable earnings into a more comprehensive labour politics. Finally, the article addresses the limits of market-based struggles over calculative power, against the background of a still pervasive ‘platform exceptionalism’: a socio-legal imaginary that treats platform companies as unique business entities, enabling them to engage in regulatory arbitrage while contractually enforcing the subordination and rightlessness of gig workers.

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At what price? Labour politics and calculative power struggles in on-demand food delivery
Forthcoming
Niels van Doorn
Adam Badger
Edward Elgar Publishing

Where Data and Finance Meet: Dual Value Production in the Gig Economy

A version of this working paper will appear in the edited volume Platform Economy Puzzles: Unravelling the Gig Work Paradox, edited by Jeroen Meijerink, Giedo Jansen, and Victoria Daskalova.

The platform economy puzzle we…

A version of this working paper will appear in the edited volume Platform Economy Puzzles: Unravelling the Gig Work Paradox, edited by Jeroen Meijerink, Giedo Jansen, and Victoria Daskalova.

The platform economy puzzle we attempt to solve in this chapter is how gig economy companies can continue to grow their business despite regularly incurring mind-boggling losses. While the first step toward solving this puzzle is easily made, by bringing into focus the crucial role of venture capital and investment firms, this immediately requires us to confront a more puzzling reality: the fact that these firms have continued to fund loss-making gig companies operating in industries with extremely thin margins. To make sense of this situation, we believe it is necessary to start by asking a deceptively basic question: What kind of work is platform-mediated gig work? Phrased differently, what kinds of value are created through platform labor? To begin solving our platform economy puzzle, then, we introduce the notion of “dual value production”, which describes how platforms capture two kinds of value from gig work: the monetary value associated with the service transaction and the more speculative and volatile types of value associated with the data generated during service provision. We elaborate on the construction of data as a specific asset class and consider the nature of the data asset. Shifting our perspective from the platform to gig workers, we subsequently discuss two grassroots initiatives that resist the unbridled data extraction from gig work and attempt to reclaim their data assets. The next section takes another step toward solving our puzzle, as we move up the value chain and examine the role of what we call “meta-platforms”. It is on this level that we are confronted with the true power brokers of the platform economy, and we therefore end our chapter by proposing an ambitious set of regulatory and policy measures that could curb this unprecedented power.

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Where Data and Finance Meet: Dual Value Production in the Gig Economy
2020-06-08
Niels van Doorn
Fabian Ferrari
Mark Graham
Working Paper

Migration and Migrant Labour in the Gig Economy: An Intervention

In urban gig economies around the world, platform labour is predominantly migrant labour. Yet the academic literature on the intersection of the gig economy and labour migration remains scant. Our experience with two action research projects,…

In urban gig economies around the world, platform labour is predominantly migrant labour. Yet the academic literature on the intersection of the gig economy and labour migration remains scant. Our experience with two action research projects, spanning six cities on four continents, has taught us how platform work impacts the structural vulnerability of migrant workers. This leads us to two claims that should recalibrate the gig economy research agenda. First, we argue that platform labour simultaneously degrades working conditions while offering migrants much-needed opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Second, we contend that the reclassification of gig workers as employees is by itself not sufficient to counter the precarisation of migrant gig work. Instead, we need ambitious policies at the intersection of immigration, social welfare, and employment regulation that push back against the digitally mediated commodification of migrant labour worldwide.

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Migration and Migrant Labour in the Gig Economy: An Intervention
2020-06-03
Niels van Doorn
Adam Badger
Antipode

Platform Capitalism’s Hidden Abode: Producing Data Assets in the Gig Economy

In this article, we argue that the governance of gig work under conditions of financialised platform capitalism is characterised by a process that we call “dual value production”: the monetary value produced by the service provided is augmented…

In this article, we argue that the governance of gig work under conditions of financialised platform capitalism is characterised by a process that we call “dual value production”: the monetary value produced by the service provided is augmented by the use and speculative value of the data produced before, during, and after service provision. App‐governed gig workers hence function as pivotal conduits in software systems that produce digital data as a particular asset class. We reflect on the production of data assets and the unequal distribution of opportunities for their valorisation, after which we survey a number of strategies seeking data‐centric worker empowerment. These strategies, we argue, are crucial attempts to push back against platform capitalism’s domination, bankrolled by what we term “meta‐platforms”. Ultimately, it is the massive wealth and synergetic capacities of meta‐platforms that constitute the most formidable obstacle to worker power and social justice in increasingly data‐driven societies.

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Platform Capitalism’s Hidden Abode: Producing Data Assets in the Gig Economy
Forthcoming
Niels van Doorn

Odds Stacked Against Workers

This article, co-authored with Julie Chen (University of Toronto) presents a cross-national comparative study that examines how American and Chinese platform companies approach the…

This article, co-authored with Julie Chen (University of Toronto) presents a cross-national comparative study that examines how American and Chinese platform companies approach the gamification of food delivery. The study, based on ethnographic fieldwork in New York City and Beijing, highlights how couriers in both cities negotiate the gamified systems designed to convince them to log in and keep working. We argue that the deeply financialized industry of platform-based food delivery compels companies to implement data-driven gamification techniques, in an effort to manipulate their flexible labor supply in the most agile and cost-effective way possible. Accordingly, we posit gamification as not only a salient form of “algorithmic management” but also as a central pivot connecting labor process datafication to financialization. Through an analysis of couriers’ experiences with two nationally distinct approaches to labor gamification, we challenge existing understandings of algorithmic management that are largely based on the operations of Western platforms.

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Odds Stacked Against Workers
2020-04-18
Sociale Vraagstukken

Is solidariteit een kwestie van digitale bemiddeling?

Article published on Sociale Vraagstukken (Dutch) Abstract: Door de coronacrisis laten mensen digitale platforms zoals Airbnb en Uber vrijwel links liggen. Buurt- en vrijwilligersplatforms daarentegen worden overstelpt door mensen die hun…

Article published on Sociale Vraagstukken (Dutch) Abstract: Door de coronacrisis laten mensen digitale platforms zoals Airbnb en Uber vrijwel links liggen. Buurt- en vrijwilligersplatforms daarentegen worden overstelpt door mensen die hun hulp aanbieden. Is solidariteit een simpele kwestie van digitale bemiddeling geworden?

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Is solidariteit een kwestie van digitale bemiddeling?
2020-02-13
Niels van Doorn
Olav Velthuis
Working Paper

Weathering winner-take-all. How rankings constitute competition on webcam sex platforms, and what performers can do about it

Forthcoming in: David Stark (ed.), The Performance Complex: Competitions and Valuations in Social Life, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Over the last decade, the global sex industry has been radically transformed by the rise of webcam sex…

Forthcoming in: David Stark (ed.), The Performance Complex: Competitions and Valuations in Social Life, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Over the last decade, the global sex industry has been radically transformed by the rise of webcam sex platforms. In this essay we show how rankings are constitutive of competition in this new, emerging part of the sex industry. The ranking algorithms are highly contested among performers, in particular because of their opaque nature and the strong winner-take-all dynamics which they propel. Creating deep uncertainty and anxiety among performers, the algorithms are widely seen as unfair. However, the wider assemblage of market devices constituted by webcam sex platforms, enable performers to circumvent the rankings at least to some degree. Moreover, on discussion forums where performers negotiate strategies to make a living, they actively share experiences of algorithms on competing platforms, discuss which algorithm suits their interests best, and consider vacating to rival platforms. Indeed, how market competition is organized within platforms, is constrained by competition between them.

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Weathering winner-take-all. How rankings constitute competition on webcam sex platforms, and what performers can do about it
2020-09-21
Jelke Bosma
Niels van Doorn
Working Paper

Stepping stone or dead end? The ambiguities of platform-mediated domestic work under conditions of austerity urbanism

This is an extended version of a book chapter that will appear in a collection on the impacts of austerity on work and employment, edited by Donna Baines and Ian Cunningham (forthcoming with Bristol University Press). The paper examines how,…

This is an extended version of a book chapter that will appear in a collection on the impacts of austerity on work and employment, edited by Donna Baines and Ian Cunningham (forthcoming with Bristol University Press). The paper examines how, under nationally and locally distinct conditions of austerity urbanism, marginalized workers navigate platform-mediated gig economies. It focuses specifically on the experiences of immigrants and minorities working through domestic cleaning platforms. In NYC, we meet Tish and Kenny: two African American cleaners who were driven to the Handy platform – and to cleaning work more specifically – through their encounters with labor activation schemes. Each has an ambivalent relationship to the platform, which provided them with a somewhat steady income stream when they sorely needed one, while also making it difficult to transition out of gig work and into a more secure and sustainable occupation. In Berlin, we hear from Kostas and Alexis, two Greek young men who left their austerity-ridden country to look for better opportunities in the nation widely held responsible for enforcing the measures that bled Greece dry. Yet when such opportunities proved harder to come by than they had initially imagined, they turned to Helpling as an easily accessible “employer of last resort” (sans employment contract). Like Tish and Kenny, Kostas and Alex have a deeply ambivalent relationship to their platform, which is nevertheless articulated in distinctive ways. The paper concludes by stressing the value of cross-national comparative ethnography as a methodological approach able to grasp the local iterations of global phenomena like “neoliberalism", “austerity” and "gig work", while highlighting the deep yet severely unequal mutual dependency between local-serving labor platforms and migrant/minority workers.

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Stepping stone or dead end? The ambiguities of platform-mediated domestic work under conditions of austerity urbanism
2019-12-29
Niels van Doorn
Olav Velthuis
New Media & Society

A new institution on the block: On platform urbanism and Airbnb citizenship

This article argues that Airbnb should be understood as a new urban institution that is transforming relations between market, state, and civil society actors. Taking the Airbnb Citizen advocacy initiative as my case, I examine how this transnational…

This article argues that Airbnb should be understood as a new urban institution that is transforming relations between market, state, and civil society actors. Taking the Airbnb Citizen advocacy initiative as my case, I examine how this transnational “home sharing” platform achieves such transformations, which in turn requires an investigation into the specific nature of Airbnb as an institutional form. Assuming the agenda-setting role of the urban “regulatory entrepreneur,” Airbnb aims to co-shape the terms of current and future policy debates pertaining not just to home sharing/short-term rental but also to the very fabric of city life. It pursues this mode of “platform urbanism” by mobilizing its user base, which it frames as a community of entrepreneurial middle-class citizens looking to supplement their income in a climate of economic insecurity and tech-enabled opportunity. Yet, who is the “Airbnb Citizen” and what are the opportunities and risks associated with platform-mediated citizenship?

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A new institution on the block: On platform urbanism and Airbnb citizenship
2019-06-20
Niels van Doorn
DigiLabour

Niels van Doorn: “O trabalho de plataforma é trabalho de minorias”

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Niels van Doorn: “O trabalho de plataforma é trabalho de minorias”
2019-06-08
Niels van Doorn
Notes from below

On the conditions of possibility for worker organizing in platform-based gig economies

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On the conditions of possibility for worker organizing in platform-based gig economies
2018-11-14
Niels van Doorn
Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy

The Parameters of Platform Capitalism

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The Parameters of Platform Capitalism
2018-04-09
Niels van Doorn
Olav Velthuis
Journal of Cultural Economy

A good hustle: the moral economy of market competition in adult webcam modeling

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A good hustle: the moral economy of market competition in adult webcam modeling
2018-02-03
Niels van Doorn
Quartz at work

Late for a job in the gig economy? Handy will dock your pay

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Late for a job in the gig economy? Handy will dock your pay
2017-02-24
Niels van Doorn
Information, Communication & Society

Platform labor: on the gendered and racialized exploitation of low-income service work in the ‘on-demand’ economy

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Platform labor: on the gendered and racialized exploitation of low-income service work in the ‘on-demand’ economy
2017-02-01
Niels van Doorn
Culture Digitally

Analysis: Platform cooperativism and the problem of the outside

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Analysis: Platform cooperativism and the problem of the outside
2016-11-30
Niels van Doorn
Data & Society: Points

Toward a Just Future for Platform Labor

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Toward a Just Future for Platform Labor
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