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Global Perspectives on Platforms, Labor & Social Reproduction

A hybrid international conference convened at the University of Amsterdam, co-organized by the Platform Labor project & the Global Digital Cultures initiative.

Conference Dates: 27 & 28 June, 2023

Keynote Conversations
Julie Chen, Rahul Mukherjee, Dalia Gebrial, Julian Posada, Cheryll Soriano, Andrea Pollio, Payal Arora, Rafael Grohmann, Ngai Pun

Organizing Committee
Niels van Doorn, Thomas Poell, Aleksandra Piletić, Jelke Bosma, Eva Mos, Rivke Jaffe, Natalie Kerby, Anunaya Rajhans, Oriana Hine

Concept Note
Much of the published scholarship on platforms and their impacts on labor and social reproduction is confined to the North American and European contexts. While this literature is rich and diverse, research in and on other parts of the world does not always get the attention it deserves. In an effort to counter this dynamic, this conference aims to epistemically and geographically recalibrate platform (labor) research. We seek to accomplish this by spotlighting scholars whose work examines communities, practices, and locales that are too often overlooked or considered “peripheral” in contemporary debates on the platformization of labor and social reproduction. Moreover, researchers working in North American and European contexts are encouraged to reflect on how forms of differentiation such as race, gender, and citizenship inform their work, particularly in light of how these have been shaped by global hierarchies and colonial histories. The conference thus provides a space for questioning the theories, methodologies and cartographies that currently dominate the field, while supporting the exchange of intersectional and geographically variegated perspectives on platforms, labor and social reproduction. 

We aim to stimulate critical discussions on the complex ways in which processes of (de)valuation, (mis)classification, (de)monetization, and extraction unfold across geographies of platform labor. Pursuing this objective, we ask:

  • How do specific trajectories of platformization reflect, reproduce and transform the social orders, hierarchies and inequalities that characterize different localities?
  • How are platforms nevertheless also generating new spaces for the cultivation of livelihoods, resistance, and solidarity?

Along with complicating the dis/empowerment binary, the conference seeks to problematize other analytical dichotomies, such as ‘developed-developing’, ‘core-periphery’, ‘North-South’, and ‘global-local’, to foster a more nuanced and multifaceted understanding of the relation between platforms, labor, and social reproduction. We welcome contributions that think the ‘South’ in the ‘North’ (and vice versa), map the overlaps between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ work, question the distinctions between public and private interests, and trace the transversal lines connecting the so-called ‘centers’ and ‘margins’ of unevenly developing platform economies.

In the context of the abovementioned aims, we are especially interested in papers that shed new light on one or more of the following themes and topics, which will be organized along six session tracks:

Conference Tracks
  • Track 1: Researching Platform Labor

    This track gathers papers that reflect on methodological challenges, innovations, and issues requiring more scholarly attention. We aim to stimulate discussions on how the heterogeneity and opacity that characterize platform labor impact the methods and conceptual approaches we deploy to study how people in different parts of the world are working and attempting to generate livelihoods through platforms that strategically (dis)embed themselves in/from their surroundings. 

  • Track 2: Dynamics of (In)Formalization and Professionalization

    This track is dedicated to papers investigating how a combination of institutional dynamics and business strategies incentivize the (in)formalization of platform labor in particular settings. In this context, we are also interested in exploring how such dynamics and strategies stimulate various forms of professionalization among workers trying to sustain themselves on platform-generated incomes. What does ‘professionalization’ entail in different regions and industries of the platform economy, and how are efforts to professionalize related to dynamics of labor degradation and devaluation? 

  • Track 3: Platform Governance/Governing Platforms

    This track brings together papers broadly representing two strands of research. On the one hand, it welcomes scholarship on how tech companies and other kinds of organizations (fail to) govern their platforms in different parts of the world. On the other hand, it gathers research on varieties of platform regulation and the relationship between platforms and public institutions. In this track, we are thus interested in papers that examine governance by platforms as well as the multiscalar governance of platforms, especially in light of how both have become increasingly entangled in various forms of neoliberal statecraft and state capitalism. 

  • Track 4: Platforms and Social Reproduction

    This track features research on the manifold ways in which platforms intersect with the efforts of households, communities, and institutions to sustain themselves over time. We welcome contributions on the relation between platforms/platformization and the unevenly manifesting ‘crisis of care’, including the role of platforms in restructuring ‘global care chains’ and volunteer-based social services. We are especially interested in papers that highlight hitherto under-researched areas, practices and dynamics of platform-mediated social reproduction. Moreover, we wonder how ‘new’ ideas about the social value or potential of platforms complement or reconfigure ‘established’ notions of community, care, and sustainability?

  • Track 5: Platformization and Capital Accumulation

    This track focuses on the extent to which platforms have challenged or reconfigured existing modes of capital accumulation. We welcome papers that examine a variety of platform-based business models and accumulation strategies, as these emerge from particular capitalist legacies and institutional settings across the globe. More specifically, we are interested in research on platform-governed extractive practices, supply chains, and rent-seeking strategies that cross borders and connect cities and regions around the world. We encourage scholars to interrogate platformization’s impact on wealth inequalities and on culturally situated understandings as well as legal codings of ownership and property.

  • Track 6: New Conflicts and Coalitions

    This track focuses on emerging and re-invigorated forms of (organized) resistance among various types of platform ‘complementors’; from gig, warehouse, and factory workers to Airbnb hosts, content creators, ecommerce sellers and software developers. We aim to examine the creation of coalitions at multiple scales, within and across industries, and with various missions, in order to explore the possibilities they create for the worker-led curbing of corporate platform power. We particularly welcome papers that investigate alternative platforms as well as alternatives to platforms. What other infrastructures (digital or otherwise) are being created and imagined by workers across the globe?

How to apply

You can propose an individual paper presentation or a pre-constituted panel with 4-5 paper presentations. To propose an individual paper presentation, please submit a 400-500 word abstract (excluding references) and a 100-word bio for each speaker (including email address and affiliation). For a pre-constituted panel, please include a 300-500 word rationale, linking the panel to one of the session tracks, as well as 400-500 word abstracts for each paper presentation and a 100-word bio for each speaker (with email address and affiliation).

Submission deadline: 1 February 2023

Whether proposing an individual paper or panel, be sure that your proposal clearly articulates: 

  1. the issue or research question to be discussed; 

  2. the critical and methodological framework used;

  3. the expected findings or conclusions. 

You are not required to submit a full paper for this conference. Furthermore, please indicate your likely plans for participation in the conference: physically or virtually (through Zoom). If participating virtually, please indicate from which time zone, so we can try to schedule you at a convenient time. Please note that proposals for fully virtual panels are not accepted. Panel moderators are expected to be present in Amsterdam.  

Registration fees (includes conference dinner & closing drinks):

(registrations will be available soon)
OECD countries, faculty & postdocs: 100 Euro 
OECD countries, PhD students: 50 Euro
OECD countries, affiliates of NGOs and non-academic research institutes: 100 Euro
Non-OECD countries, affiliates of NGOs and non-academic research institutes: 50 Euro
Non-OECD countries, faculty & postdocs: 50 Euro 
Non-OECD countries, PhD students: 25 Euro 
Online (Zoom): 25 Euro