'Platforms without Borders' is a cross-national ethnographic study by a team of researchers based in the United Kingdom, China and Brazil which aims to determine how on-demand labour platforms distribute new opportunities and vulnerabilities for migrant workers in the platform economy. It moves beyond the narrow focus of platform labour studies on a select few cities in the Global North by considering the different circumstances facing migrant workers in three distinct cities and national contexts based on fieldwork in London, Beijing and Sao Paulo with food delivery riders. The international focus provides an opportunity to examine how global platform companies operate differently in distinct regulatory environments, which will deepen our understanding of the platform economy.
The project employs novel ethnographic research methods developed from Paulo Freire’s notion of ‘popular education’ to engage with migrant workers through which workers critically reflect on their own experience of work in dialogue with critical social analysis. The methodology emphasises the importance of workers as active agents with their own distinct understanding of the labour process and the capacity to develop novel solutions to improve their working conditions. By starting from the experience of workers, the project will determine how intersecting regimes of power related to gender, race, class, education and immigration status affect migrant workers’ experience with platform labour. It will examine how broader systems of immigration, welfare and labour market policies operate in different national contexts and how this affects the experience of workers. The research will engage workers with the aim of generating novel policy solutions to the emerging problems of the digital economy.
Principal Investigator: James Muldoon
Co-Investigator: Ping Sun
Co-Investigator: Gessuir Pigatto
Updates about the project will be posted here.