Computing Bodies in Platforms: Reading Subjectivities in Two Work Platforms in India

Topics: Cultural Geography, Cyberinfrastructure, Urban Geography
Keywords: Digital Geographies, Platform Labor, Platform Work
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

An important aspect of the literature emerging from research on platform economies in the Global South are the ways in which different groups of people, with respect to the intersections of their social locations, experience heightened exclusion and marginalization that cannot be mapped onto either digital colonialism or digital empowerment (Graham et al 2017; Kwet 2019).

This politics of identity plays out as more numbers of people, hitherto marginalized from the labor market, seem to be enrolling themselves in a regime that propagates a discourse of entrepreneurialism and individuation (signaling a difference) simultaneously with the advancement of an aggressive and masculinist discourse of technology start-ups and digital service platforms (signaling business-as-usual).

In this paper, I will interrogate the continuities and disjuncture/s between two work platforms that mobilize a discourse of entrepreneurialism for women and more broadly, other marginalized groups. Comparing the two platforms—one funded by foreign and domestic investors and the other a platform co-op, I will ask the following questions. How are subjectivities produced by the laboring bodies through the mobilizations of identities and their identification (or not) of bodies as extensions of “computation service” (Irani 2015)? What sort of cultural work does the entrepreneurial narrative for the marginalized do? What do their strategies with regard to the platform economy suggest about the productive possibilities of platforms?

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