April 27: Seminar on Platformization and Regulatory Embeddedness

Published on: 2022-04-27

On April 27, the Platform Labor team—Niels van Doorn, Eva Mos, Jelke Bosma, and Aleksandra Piletić—present their research at the WZB-hosted seminar on platform policy and regulation in Berlin.

Instead of starting with platforms and asking how they are or should be regulated, which assumes public regulators are predominantly reactive and at odds with private platform companies, this talk departs from a different angle. The question we open with is: How have particular local and national regulations and/or policies cultivated institutional settings and dynamics that have been congenial to the platformization of industries such as logistics, care/domestic work, and short-term housing? We argue that there are a number of path-dependent complementarities between neoliberalization and platformization, which have enabled platform companies to market their product/service as a “fix” to actually existing as well as manufactured societal needs, while allowing them to operate in liberalized or historically un(der)regulated sectors. Drawing on several examples from our Platform Labor research project, which compares the platformization of labor and social reproduction in Amsterdam, Berlin and New York City, we discuss processes of institutional embedding in which platforms opportunistically leverage existing regulations (or the controversies surrounding them) to achieve their bottom line. Once this bottom line becomes antagonistic to popular conceptions of public value or the common good, resulting issues are usually tackled through the development of platform-specific policies and regulation, driven by widely shared beliefs regarding the exceptional nature of platforms. However, just as pre-existing regulatory frameworks have evoked the rise of platformization, we argue that adequate regulatory initiatives will have to take into critical account the conditions under which we came to rely on platforms in the first place.