The actually existing platform economy: practices of platform labor in Nijmegen and Berlin

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In the years following the 2008 financial crisis, on-demand delivery platforms have become an increasingly common feature of urban economies across the globe. Noted for their use of hyper-outsourced, “lean” business models and reliance on independent contractors, these companies evade traditional employer obligations while still controlling workers at a distance through complex algorithmic management techniques. Using the food delivery platform Deliveroo as a case study, this thesis project investigates the diverse array of practices on-demand workers carry out in order to enact this new platform labor arrangement in context. Conducted using autoethnographic methods, this research was carried out over the course of nine months during which I worked as a Deliveroo Rider in Nijmegen and Berlin and interviewed fellow platform workers in both cities. The findings reveal the motley, contingent, and conditional ways in which on-demand labor comes together on the ground, what I term the “actually existing” platform economy. I conclude with a discussion of the uneven distribution of these practices across locations and social groups and the sometimes contradictory impacts they have on the structure of platform labor.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen