Urban Platform Economies: Transformations of labour and intersectional inequalities in care services (TICS)
Project start: 1 October 2022
The digital platform economy has become an increasingly central actor for socioeconomic processes in European cities. It reorganises the geography of care work, of urban life and value creation at both local and global scales. Digital platforms such as Lieferando and Helpling operate as intermediaries between service providers and costumers by which they transform labour, service provision and consumption patterns and reshape sociospatial structures in cities and people’s everyday routines. Urban and labour geographers have analysed the relations between space, digitalization and the role of platforms’ network effects especially for ride hailing (Uber) and accommodation (Airbnb), including questions of ownership and control of the technological infrastructures. However, further attention is required to assess platforms’ growing impacts on the spatial and social organisation of urban societies. In addition, more knowledge is needed on the platformisation of home care services (cleaning, child-/senior care, food delivery).
The project builds on feminist geographies as a theoretical framework to address the research question: How does the rise of the digitally mediated care services in the platform economy transform everyday lives and inequalities in cities? It will do so by a set of three sub-questions: 1) What type of care services does the urban platform economy offer, to whom are they tailored to and how do they restructure urban space? 2) How is care labour performed and experienced by the workers when mediated via digital platforms? 3) In what ways does the platformisation of care services (re)produce and (re)shape intersectional inequalities?
These questions are connected to three main objectives: 1) Enhancing empirical evidence of platform urbanism in Europe based on three major care service platforms, focussing on the platformisation of care infrastructures and a systematisation of care service platforms and their enabling socioeconomic conditions. 2) Advancing the theoretical debate on platform urbanism with respect to the transformation of labour and intersectional inequalities. 3) Enriching the methodological debate on researching human-environment-technology interfaces and platform-based everyday interactions in cities. For this, the project uses a qualitative methodology, combining narrative interviews with mobile digital ethnography.
The results will include a systematisation of care platforms according to their business models, the reorganisation and financialisation of domestic work in a comparison of three European cities. They will provide in-depth knowledge on processes of urban platformisation and gendered and racialised divisions of labour. In this, the project innovatively links macropolitical structures of platformisation with the micropolitics of urban everyday life and embodied subjects’ experiences.