HomeDigital Labour Platforms and (New) Inequalities

HomeDigital Labour Platforms and (New) Inequalities

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Published on Thursday, March 28, 2024

Abstract

This issue of Inequalities is dedicated to the impact and consequences of digital labour platforms on inequalities and the system of inequalities, in terms of, for example: labour inequalities (the labour market, the organisation of work, work processes, and working conditions); economic inequalities (wages and income); social inequalities (impoverishment in material and social terms, as well as in one’s daily life, and inequalities in the use of one’s time); health inequalities (occupational diseases and psychological impoverishment); gender inequalities and environmental inequalities. Papers on the struggles and mobilisations against inequalities linked to digital labour platforms are also welcome. This call for papers is dedicated to the relationship between digital labour platforms and inequalities and is open to contributions investigating aspects of this relationship and the phenomena linked to it.

Announcement

Argument

Platform capitalism is the result of long-term socio-economic transformations in the wake of the transition to a regime of flexible accumulation. Developments and innovations in the electronics industry, in ICTs, and in digital technologies have played a significant role in these transformations. With the advent of the second machine age and the digitisation of just about everything (Brynjolfsson, McAfee 2015), the pervasiveness of digital technologies in the various spheres and activities of social life has had multiple effects at the economic, social, cultural, and ecological levels.

But the digital sphere is not neutral: its consequences on the entirety of social life and on the world of work do not derive directly from new technologies, but from the capitalist conception and application of them. Contrary to a perspective founded in “technological neutrality”, the digitisation of labour is not simply a technical matter in which technical means dominate over capital. In digitally driven labour transformation processes, the technological element appears on the surface to prevail over the social relations that actually subsume it.

From a technological point of view, the digitisation of work is driven by digital discoveries and innovations in the context of increasingly complex ICTs, increasingly powerful computers and information systems, and total connectivity. However, these technologies are conceived and used for the appropriation of the value produced by living labour – today more rarefied than dead labour, but precisely for this reason more essential than ever to the production of value. The activation of an extensive range of activities and services brought about by the expansion of platforms and the vertical and horizontal integration of the entire economic-productive process into industry by means of automation, robotisation, and digitisation have taken place within a context of extreme centralisation, in which economic-productive process are almost totally controlled by a market logic aimed at generating profit. These are the main factors behind the production and reproduction of inequalities.

On the one hand, digital technologies have opened up once unimaginable opportunities and spaces for – albeit technologically mediated – communication between people and organisations. On the other hand, they have had severe consequences on working conditions (Antunes, Basso, Perocco 2021). Thus, Digital Labour Platforms represent a space in which are condensed the broader tensions and contradictions of the accumulation regime and contemporary modes of production.

From the perspective of the production and labour process and the transformations of workplaces, the implementation of digital technologies has given new emphasis to studies on capitalist command and control in these spheres, linked first to mechanisation, then to robotics and automation and their potential effects on the replacement of the labour force by machines (Frey, Osborne 2013; Kagermann 2015; Pollock 1956). Other studies have highlighted the degradation of work, increases in working hours, the intensification of work rhythms, and the fragmentation of work into micro-tasks increasingly mediated by information and digital technologies that opacify the employment relationship (Aneesh 2009; Antunes 2018; Huws 2014; Pfeiffer, Suphan 2015; Scholz 2016).

Some studies have also pointed out the international division of digital labour (Fuchs 2014), characterised by processes of capital accumulation based both on a multiplicity of modes of production and exploitation of labour (forced labour, extra-salarial coercion, servile labour, degraded labour, etc.) and on an economic-productive continuum ranging from mines where raw materials are extracted to digital infrastructures to cloud computing (which depends on the intense exploitation of manual and intellectual labour and of nature).

Uberisation and platform labour, and thus the digital proletariat, fit into this framework (Antunes 2023; Huws 2020; Woodcock, Graham 2019). This includes on-demand platform workers performing jobs in home delivery, urban transport, housing, and cleaning services, as well as workers employed in crowdwork (click workers) who contribute, among other things, to the training of Artificial Intelligence systems, such as machine learning, by completing specific micro-tasks (Casilli 2019; Gray, Suri 2019). 

The digital driven new morphology of work is characterized by reductions in employment status and labour protections, lower wages, the intensification of work, the increased surveillance of workers, the assimilation of a performance logic imposed by algorithmic mechanisms of evaluation and classification, and the widespread conception of these forms of work as a free “provision of services” by workers who conceive of themselves as self-employed, and masters of their own working lives (Aloisi, De Stefano 2020; Crouch 2019; Schor 2020). It is based, at productive-organisational level, on a more intense application of the Taylorist factory, using information technology to transfer from the industrial to the tertiary sector the managerial systems and times and methods used in factories, thus ensuring tigher control, higher speeds, and the standardisation of white-collar and tertiary work (Head 2014). The algorithmic organisation of platform capitalism, based on the dual production and extraction of value, according to which the accumulated data contribute to an increase in the monetary value of the service offered, means that datafication and labour exploitation are consubstantial, creating a very close link between labour performance and data value chains (Casilli 2019).

This issue of Inequalities is dedicated to the impact and consequences of digital labour platforms on inequalities and the system of inequalities, in terms of, for example: labour inequalities (the labour market, the organisation of work, work processes, and working conditions); economic inequalities (wages and income); social inequalities (impoverishment in material and social terms, as well as in one’s daily life, and inequalities in the use of one’s time); health inequalities (occupational diseases and psychological impoverishment); gender inequalities and environmental inequalities. The latter concern the socio-ecological harmfulness of digitalisation arising, for example, from the mining and production processes necessary for the construction of the digital infrastructures and electronic artefacts through which digital technologies are propagated, as well as from energy consumed in the functioning of the digital infrastructure. Papers on the struggles and mobilisations against inequalities linked to digital labour platforms are also welcome. This call for papers is dedicated to the relationship between digital labour platforms and inequalities and is open to contributions investigating aspects of this relationship and the phenomena linked to it.

Submission guidelines

Contributions should be sent by 30 October 2024, in one of the following languages: English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. 

In addition to sending the article directly by the deadline, there is the possibility, for those who wish, to send an article proposal to the editors for feedback. The proposal, containing the title of the article and a 300-word abstract, should be sent on https://peerflow.edizionicafoscari.it//abstracts/form/journal/30/322

by 30 May 2024.

Peer review

Every article published by ECF was accepted for publication by no less than two qualified reviewers as a result of a process of anonymous reviewing (double-blind peer review). The reviewers are independent of the authors and not affiliated with the same institution.

The Journal’s Editor-in-Chief guarantees the proper execution of the peer review process for every article published in the Journal.

Peer review policies for the different sections:

  • Complete volume/issue: subject to peer review
  • Monographs/essays/articles: subject to peer review
  • Introductions, prefaces: no peer review
  • Reviews: no peer review
  • Editorials: no peer review

For a complete description of the process, please visit: Scientific certification.

Editor-in-Chief

  • Fabio Perocco, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia    

Advisory Board

  • Ricardo Antunes, University of Campinas  
  • Pietro Basso, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia  
  • Ajmal Hussain, University of Warwick  
  • Olga Jubany, University of Barcelona  
  • Nouria Ouali, Free University of Brussels  
  • Marcello Musto, York University  

In-House Editorial Assistant

  • Giorgio Pirina, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia  

Editorial Board

  • Rossana Cillo, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia  
  • Rosignoli Francesca, University of Tarragona  

Subjects


Date(s)

  • Thursday, May 30, 2024

Information source

  • Editor Inequalities Editor Inequalities
    courriel : inequalities_editor [at] unive [dot] it

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Digital Labour Platforms and (New) Inequalities », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, March 28, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/w4ah

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