Digital platforms that facilitate local on-demand services and online crowd-work are the latest corporate actors in the decades-long process of global economic restructuring. However, the proliferation of digital labor platforms is neither ahistorical nor uniform. In this talk, Dr. Julie Yujie Chen will use digital labor in China as a point of departure to analyze the shifting material conditions and social relations that pave the way for China’s multifaceted platform economy.
Digital platforms to facilitate local on-demand services and online crowd-work are the latest actors in the decades-long history of restructuring global production process. The proliferation of digital labor platforms is, however, neither ahistorical nor uniform. In this talk, using digital labor in China as a point of departure, I will discuss the historical continuity and rupture in the material conditions and social relations that pave the way for China’s booming platform economy. I argue that the intertwining and contentious forces behind China’s digital developmentalism and its dominant informal work force shape the transformation of work in the platform economy, which are characterized by labor heterogeneity and a proliferation of traditional and new types of intermediaries. These characteristics have profound implications for the labor politics in the country. The talk will conclude with a discussion about those implications.
Julie Yujie Chen is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology at the University of Toronto (Mississauga) and holds a graduate appointment at the Faculty of Information (St. George). Chen studies the transformation of work in relation to the digital technologies, capitalism, and globalization. She is the co-author of Media and Management (University of Minnesota Press, 2021) and the lead author of Super-sticky WeChat and Chinese Society (Emerald, 2018). Her work on platform-based workers has appeared in journals like New Media & Society, Socio-Economic Review, Javnost – The Public, Work, Employment and Society, Chinese Journal of Communication, and China Perspectives and so on. Currently, she is working on a project to examine data work in AI.