Conservative innovations: Understanding forms of development in digital real estate technologies

Authors: Ian Spangler*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: platform urbanism, platform real estate, financialization, critical housing studies, digital geographies
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 22
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Platform real estate (PRE) refers to a suite of digital technologies that leverage the strategies and infrastructures of platform capitalism to assist with processes of real estate construction, trans-action, and management. Through the development and deployment of software products, PRE firms claim to introduce “normatively desirable” virtues such as accuracy, transparency, democratization, sustainability, and affordability into a real estate industry that is woefully maladjusted to the digital era (Shaw 2018, 2). Of course, the story of how PRE actually impacts real estate markets, processes of financialization, and the lived experiences of housing is inevitably more complex than the cheery marketing rhetoric found in press releases or conference brochures. Conceptualizing PRE as "conservative innovations" that stabilize some processes while disrupting others, this paper explores the three forms of development – developing software, developing land, and developing financial portfolios – around which PRE converges. By asking how expertise about PRE gets solidified; how its economic flows get arranged; and how, and to what ends, PRE technologies get used, I explore the ways in which new configurations of property, financialized housing, and digital technologies emerge as a key site of contestation within an increasingly entangled real estate-urban finance-technology nexus.

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