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Niels Beerepoot and Niels van Doorn

Tracing the spatial and temporal dimensions of gig platforms’ evolution: A comparative biography of Deliveroo and Upwork.

At a moment when the novelty of the “platform revolution” is beginning to wear off and platform companies are adjusting to a new macro-financial reality, this research project aims to take stock of the evolutionary trajectories of two prominent gig work platforms: Upwork and Deliveroo. By examining the spatial and temporal dimensions of these companies’ development since their inception, we seek to better understand what factors explain both heterogeneity and convergence in their respective business trajectories. So far, gig economy and platform labour scholarship lacks historical analyses of platform development, particularly comparative and geographically sensitive approaches. Our comparative platform biography will rely on the collection of historical data on the operations of both platforms (e.g. founding, platform design, market expansion, financing, regulatory and labour issues, business performance). By conducting a comparative biography of an online freelancing platform and a food delivery platform, this project will offer new insights into the variegated business strategies, industry dynamics, and institutional logics of what has too often been treated as a monolithic “gig economy”.

Niels Beerepoot is associate professor in Economic Geography at the Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development of the University of Amsterdam. His current research is focused on digital labour and the transformation of platforms mediating between supply and demand for labour.

Niels van Doorn is associate professor of New Media & Digital Culture in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Between 2018 and 2023 he led the ERC-funded project Platform Labor. His research focuses on the socio-economic impacts of platformization.