Advertisement

Digital Platforms: Producing and Infrastructuring Users in the Age of Airbnb

  • Attila BruniEmail author
  • Fabio M. Esposito
Chapter

Abstract

How do digital platforms relate to processes of domination and emancipation? To answer this question, the authors focus on Airbnb, a platform-based company and current leader at the global level in the online hospitality industry, highlighting the relation that it builds with their users, together with the ways in which users give shape to this relation. Adopting an actor-network approach, the authors begin with the assumption that platforms are not merely intermediaries, but they configure, produce and infrastructure their users. This helps to problematize the domination/emancipation dichotomy through which platforms are often interpreted, showing an apparently contradictory dynamic: Platform-organizations produce and depend on the very subjects they dominate.

References

  1. Akrich, M. (1992). The Description of Technical Objects. In W. Bijker & J. Law (Eds.), Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change (pp. 205–224). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Arcidiacono, D., Gandini, A., & Pais, I. (2018). Sharing What? The ‘Sharing Economy’ in the Sociological Debate. The Sociological Review Monographs, 66(2), 275–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldwin, C. Y., & Woodard, C. J. (2009). The Architecture of Platforms: A Unified View. In A. Gawer (Ed.), Platforms, Markets and Innovation (pp. 19–44). Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  4. Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Botsman, R., & Rogers, B. (2010). What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York, NY: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  6. Bowker, G. C. (1994). Science on the Run: Information Management and Industrial Geophysics at Schlumberger, 1920–1940. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York, NY: Lang.Google Scholar
  8. Callon, M. (1984). Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay. The Sociological Review, 32(1), 196–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Callon, M., & Law J. (1992). The Life and Death of an Aircraft: A Network Analysis of Technical Change. In W. Bijke & J. Law (Eds.), Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change (pp. 21–52). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cheng, M., & Foley, C. (2018). The Sharing Economy and Digital Discrimination: The Case of Airbnb. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 70, 95–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Choudary, P. S. (2015). Platform Scale: How an Emerging Business Model Helps Startups Build Large Empires with Minimum Investment. Boston, MA: Platform Thinking Labs.Google Scholar
  12. Christensen, C. M. (2006). The Ongoing Process of Building a Theory of Disruption. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 23(1), 39–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Condliffe, J. (2016, September 12). Airbnb Isn’t Really Confronting Its Racism Problem. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/602355/airbnb-isnt-really-confronting-its-racism-problem/. Accessed 22 September 2019.
  14. Danaher, J. (2016). The Threat of Algocracy: Reality, Resistance and Accommodation. Philosophy and Technology, 29, 245–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Danaher, J., Hogan, M. J., Noone, C., Kennedy, R., Behan, A., De Paor, A., … Shankar, K. (2017, July–December). Algorithmic Governance: Developing a Research Agenda Through the Power of Collective Intelligence. Big Data & Society, 1–21.Google Scholar
  16. Dredge, D., Gyimóthy, S., Birkbak, A., Jensen, T. E., & Madsen, A. K. (2016). The Impact of Regulatory Approaches Targeting Collaborative Economy in the Tourism Accommodation Sector: Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris (Impulse Paper No. 9, European Commission DG GROWTH). Copenhagen, DK: Aalborg University.Google Scholar
  17. Fradkin, A., Grewal, E., Holtz, D., & Pearson, M. (2015, June 15–19). Bias and Reciprocity in Online Reviews: Evidence from Field Experiments on Airbnb. Proceedings of the Sixteenth ACM Conference on Economics and Computation. Portland, OR.Google Scholar
  18. Flick, U. (2000). Episodic Interviewing. In M. W. Bauer & G. Gaskell (Eds.), Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound: A Practical Handbook (pp. 75–92). London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Gillespie, T. (2010). The Politics of ‘Platforms’. New Media & Society, 12(3), 347–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gurran, N., & Phibbs, P. (2017). When Tourists Move in: How Should Urban Planners Respond to Airbnb? Journal of the American Planning Association, 83(1), 80–92.Google Scholar
  21. Guttentag, D. (2015). Airbnb: Disruptive Innovation and the Rise of an Informal Tourism Accommodation Sector. Current Issues in Tourism, 18(12), 1192–1217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Himanen, P. (2001). The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of Information Age. New York, NY: Random House.Google Scholar
  23. Horn, K., & Merante, M. (2017). Is Home Sharing Driving Up Rents? Evidence from Airbnb in Boston. Journal of Housing Economics, 38, 14–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hyysalo, S., Jensen, T. E., & Oudshoorn, N. (Eds.). (2016). The New Production of Users: Changing Innovation Collectives and Involvement Strategies. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Hyysalo, S., & Johnson, M. (2016). User Representation: A Journey Towards Conceptual Maturation. In S. Hyysalo, T. E. Jensen, & N. Oudshoorn (Eds.), The New Production of Users: Changing Innovation Collectives and Involvement Strategies (pp. 75–100). London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Ikkala, T., & Lampinen, A. (2015, March 14–18). Monetizing Network Hospitality: Hospitality and Sociability in the Context of Airbnb. Paper Presented at CSCW Conference, Vancouver, BC.Google Scholar
  27. Irani, L. (2015). Difference and Dependence Among Digital Workers: The Case of Amazon Mechanical Turk. South Atlantic Quarterly, 114(1), 225–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jin, D. Y. (2015). Digital Platforms, Imperialism and Political Culture. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Knorr Cetina, K., & Bruegger, U. (2002). Traders’ Engagement with Markets: A Postsocial Relationship. Theory, Culture and Society, 19(5–6), 161–185. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ladegaard, I. (2018). Hosting the Comfortably Exotic: Cosmopolitan Aspirations in the Sharing Economy. The Sociological Review Monographs, 66(2), 381–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Law, J. (1987). Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering: The Case of Portuguese Expansion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  33. Liang, S., Schuckert, M., Law, R., & Chih-Chien, C. (2017). Be a “Superhost”: The Importance of Badge Systems for Peer-to-Peer Rental Accommodations. Tourism Management, 60, 454–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mackay, H., Carne, C., Beynon-Davies, P., & Tudhope, D. (2000). Reconfiguring the User: Using Rapid Application Development. Social Studies of Science, 30(5), 737–757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Molz, G. J. (2014). Toward a Network Hospitality. First Monday, 19(3). Retrieved from https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4824/3848. Accessed 9 July 2018.
  36. Offer, A. (1997). Between the Gift and the Market: The Economy of Regard. The Economic History Review, 50(3), 450–476.Google Scholar
  37. Ossewaarde, M., & Reijers, W. (2017). The Illusion of the Digital Commons: ‘False Consciousness’ in Online Alternative Economies. Organization, 24(5), 609–628.Google Scholar
  38. Oudshoorn, N., & Pinch, T. (Eds.). (2003). How Users Matter: The Co-construction of Users and Technologies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  39. Peticca-Harris, A., deGama, N., & Ravishankar, M. N. (2018). Postcapitalist Precarious Work and Those in the ‘Drivers’ Seat: Exploring the Motivations and Lived Experiences of Uber Drivers in Canada. Organization.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1350508418757332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Picascia, S., Romano, A., & Teobaldi, M. (2017, July 11–14). The Airification of Cities: Making Sense of the Impact of Peer to Peer Short Term Letting on Urban Functions and Economy. Paper Presented at the Annual Congress of the Association of European Schools of Planning, AESOP2017, Lisbon, PT.Google Scholar
  41. Plantin, J. C., Lagoze, C., Edwards, P., & Sandvig, C. (2018). Infrastructure Studies Meet Platform Studies in the Age of Google and Facebook. New Media & Society, 20(1), 293–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pollock, N., Williams, R., & D’Adderio, L. (2016). Generification as a Strategy: How Software Producers Configure Products, Manage User Communities and Segment Markets. In S. Hyysalo, T. E. Jensen, & N. Oudshoorn (Eds.), The New Production of Users: Changing Innovation Collectives and Involvement Strategies (pp. 160–189). London, UK: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Powell, W. W., & Di Maggio, P. J. (1991). The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Rosenblat, A., & Stark, L. (2016). Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s Drivers. International Journal of Communication, 10, 3758–3784.Google Scholar
  45. Schmidt, K., & Simone, C. (1996). Coordination Mechanisms: Towards a Conceptual Foundation of CSCW Systems Design. CSCW, 5, 155–200.Google Scholar
  46. Srnicek, N. (2016). Platform Capitalism. London, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  47. Star, S. L. (1999). The Ethnography of Infrastructure. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(3), 377–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Star, S. L., & Bowker, G. C. (2002). How to Infrastructure? In L. A. Lievrouw & S. L. Livingstone (Eds.), The Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICT (pp. 151–162). London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Star, S. L., & Ruhleder, K. (1996). Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure: Borderlands of Design and Access for Large Information Spaces. Information Systems Research, 7(1), 111–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Star, S. L., & Strauss, A. (1999). Layers of Silence, Arenas of Voice: The Ecology of Visible and Invisible Work. Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, 8(1–2), 9–30.Google Scholar
  51. Starner, T. (2015). Has ‘Workforce-as-a-Service’ Arrived? HR Dive. Retrieved from http://www.hrdive.com/news/has-workforce-as-a-service-arrived/402237/. Accessed 29 April 2019.
  52. Sundararajan, A. (2016). The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  53. van Dijck, J. (2013). The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. van Dijck, J., Poell, T., & de Waal, M. (2018). The Platform Society: Public Values in a Connective World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Doorn, N. (2016). Platform Labor: On the Gendered and Racialized Exploitation of Low-Income Service Work in the ‘On-Demand’ Economy. Information, Communication & Society, 20(6), 898–914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang, D., & Nicolau, J. L. (2017). Price Determinants of Sharing Economy Based Accommodation Rental: A Study of Listings from 33 Cities on Airbnb.com. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 62, 120–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Woolgar, S. (1991). Configuring the User: The Case of Usability Trials. In J. Law (Ed.), Sociology of Monsters: Essays on Power Technology and Domination (pp. 57–99). London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TrentoTrentoItaly
  2. 2.University of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly

Personalised recommendations