30 Aug 2023
Location: Skempton Building, Imperial College, London
In-person Paper Session Title: Decentering Platform Urbanism and Work: Seeing ‘from Elsewhere’ and ‘from Within’
Session Organiser and Chair: Dr. Debangana Bose
Discussant: Professor Bhaskar Vira
The skyrocketing growth of digital platform-mediated service provisioning is revolutionizing everyday life and labour relations in the algorithm-driven city (Kitchin, 2019; Chen and Sun, 2020). The basic tenet of platform urbanism relies on the idea that digital platforms are not independent technical entities but exist in material, social, spatial, temporal, and embodied relation to the urban (Barns, 2020; Fields et al., 2020; Leszczynski, 2020). Recognizing the importance of localized instantiations of platform capitalism in exploring platform-urban relations, urban and labour studies scholars now call for decentering and decolonizing geographies of platform urbanism and platform work (Fields et al., 2020; Caprotti et al., 2022). In doing so, scholars call for exploring diverse and distinctive sites ‘elsewhere’ beyond the global North to encompass multiple and counter-stories of how digital platforms, political economies of labour, and localized power relations of the urban co-constitute each other. Towards that end, spatial decentering or ‘seeing from elsewhere’ as a tactic is generative. Complementing spatial decentering, scholars also call for an epistemological decentering that relies on disrupting the binary accounting of platform-urban-labour relations (Qadri and D’Ignazio, 2022). There exists a binary accounting of the platform-urban-labour relations in the literature where scholars either adopt a ‘view from above’ by examining the hegemony of digital platforms and algorithmic power in reconfiguring urban life and labour relations or adopt a ‘view from below’ focusing on the agency of platform workers in resisting platforms and algorithmic power. Qadri and D’Ignazio (2022) move beyond such binary accounting of platform-urban-labour relations and call for examining the platform workers’ ‘views from within’. Drawing on the two aforementioned tactics of spatial decentering (‘seeing from elsewhere’ or ‘seeing from the South’) and epistemological decentering (‘seeing from within’), this session engages with ways of knowledge production of the entanglements of platform-urban-labour relations.
This in-person paper session explores empirical, theoretical, and methodological contributions for decentering platform urbanism and platform work. This session comprises seven paper presentations.