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      Platform economy: (dis-) embeddedness processes in urban spaces

      Urban Transformations
      BioMed Central
      Platform economy, Digital platform, (dis-)embeddedness, de-commodification, Accountability, Polanyi

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          Digital platforms, understood as multi-sided matchmakers, have amassed huge power, reimagining the role of consumers, producers, and even ownership. They increasingly dictate the way the economy and urban life is organized. Yet, despite their influential and far-reaching role in shaping our economic as well as sociocultural world, our understanding of their embeddedness, namely how their activities are embedded in systems of social and societal relationships and how they conceptualize their main functions and actions in relation to their wider setting, remains rudimentary. Consequently, the purpose of this frontier paper is threefold. Firstly, it reveals the need to discuss and evaluate (dis-)embedding processes in platform urbanism in order to understand the underlying dynamics of platform power and urban transformation. Secondly, it aims to reveal the main reasons in regard to the difficulties in pinpointing digital platforms embeddedness. Thirdly, it seeks to propose future research unravelling the (dis-)embeddedness of the platform economy.

          This paper argues for three main reasons namely unawareness, unaccountability and non-transparency of digital platforms that drive the lack of embeddedness and reaffirms platform power. This is mainly based on the configuration of new commodities, platforms’ strategic avoidance of labour protections and other regulatory frameworks as well as platforms’ secrecy in which they operate. This frontier paper argues that transferring the concept of embeddedness to the platform economy might serve as a valuable tool to understand and pinpoint essential dynamics and relationships at play, therefore proposing embeddedness as a basis for future research on the platform economy. It strongly argues that a more detailed understanding is urgently needed, in order to be able to understand, accompany and actively influence the development of the platform economy in regulatory terms.

          Science highlights

          • Identifies three main reasons for the difficulties of evaluating digital platforms (unawareness, unaccountability and non-transparency).

          • Identifies inter alia the lack of embeddedness research on the commodification of ‘consumer work’.

          • Highly values the embeddedness concept for analysing contemporary economic and urban transformations.

          Policy and practice recommendations

          • Urban policymakers and practitioners should understand the role and power of digital platforms.

          • Digital platforms form an indispensable part of urban life, controlling many urban interactions.

          • The unaccountability of platforms calls for a wider regulatory framework.

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          Most cited references64

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              Putting the sharing economy into perspective


                Author and article information

                Urban Transform
                Urban Transform
                Urban Transformations
                BioMed Central (London )
                20 December 2021
                20 December 2021
                : 3
                : 1
                GRID grid.8379.5, ISNI 0000 0001 1958 8658, Department of Economic Geography, , Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg, ; Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg, Germany
                © The Author(s) 2021

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Funded by: Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (3088)
                Frontiers Paper
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                © The Author(s) 2021

                platform economy,digital platform,(dis-)embeddedness,de-commodification,accountability,polanyi


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