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Digital labour platforms function as a central infrastructure that mediates, organises and controls flexible work. The panel aims to discuss anthropological perspectives on global platform labour, its genealogies as well as its embeddedness into diverse histories, local contexts and power relations.
Digital platforms are not only transactional spaces which create different modes of connection, but also central infrastructures for the global circulation of goods, data and the reconfiguration of labour. Labour platforms of the so-called gig economy such as Deliveroo or Upwork function not only as mediators between capital and labour, they also reorganize, redistribute and regulate flexible labour - and thereby remind us of older but still existing infrastructures for the mediation of labour such as the putting out system for home-based work or the traditional street corner for day labourers.
Thinking through the platform as an infrastructure that mediates, organises and controls labour therefore allows to move beyond the notion of platforms as completely new and disruptive actors. Anthropological perspectives on platforms could illuminate the complex genealogy of flexible and contingent labour and stress the embeddedness of platform labour into diverse histories, local contexts and power relations.
The panel aims at analysing how platforms (re-)organise flexible labour relations in different socio-economic, political and cultures contexts. While many studies focus on platform labour in the Global North, a recent study indicates that around 30 million platform workers are located in the Global South (Fair Work 2019). We therefore especially invite papers focusing on platform labour in diverse geographical locations, going beyond frequently studied gig economy platforms and reflecting on topics such as:
• Platforms as infrastructures
• Platform labour and social reproduction
• Digital labour and mobility/migration
• Platform labour in relation to other forms of contingent work