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Platform-Living: Theorizing life, work, and ethical living after the gig economy

  • Author(s): Raval, Noopur Atul
  • Advisor(s): Dourish, John Paul
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-SA' version 4.0 license

Gig Economy platforms such as Uber, Ola, Zomato among others have proliferated across urban centres of the world and transformed the ways in which people access mobility, food, care, and other services necessary for daily life. These platforms have primarily been studied from a (digital) labour perspective to understand how the rise of “gig work” or app-based piecework has transformed labour participation and the conditions of daily work for thousands across the globe. Gig work and broadly platform work have been hailed as the ‘Future of Work’ as well. This dissertation draws on four years of ethnographic research on platform participation across India, the UK, and the US to offer the first theorization of ‘platform-living’ beyond the conception of platform work. Responding to the predominantly economistic focus on platforms as markets, the dissertation expands what constitutes as ‘matters of concern’ to the questions of social practice, urban infrastructural politics as well as the investigation of moral enactments within the platform society. The dissertation’s conceptual direction derives from the understanding that an exclusive focus on platforms qua markets misses out the ways in which social networks, built

environment, urban ecologies as well as local political constellations shape the materialization of platforms in local contexts. In that sense, there are multiple platform economies and they are constantly being worlded by the contexts that they unfold in. To that end, as the dissertation shows, it is imperative to understand platforms as social, material and ethical objects, not exclusively in terms of how they shape the daily work of ridehailing drivers and food delivery workers but rather by looking at the ways in which they get inserted in the larger landscape of everyday life. The dissertation argues that the emplaced notion of ‘platform-living’ inspires a generative and tactical approach to platform politics and regulation going forward.

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