Digital Platform Workers under COVID-19: A Subaltern Perspective

Date
2021-01-05
Authors
Masiero, Silvia
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Abstract
Digital labour is widely depicted as a carrier of economic opportunities for poor and marginalised individuals. Such an orthodoxy is however questioned from research pointing at the structural vulnerabilities of digital work, vulnerabilities that the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted on a global scale. The central contribution of this paper is that subalternity theory offers the intellectual tools to understand the structural vulnerability of digital platform workers, setting the ground for studying emerging forms of collective resistance among them. Drawing on a data repository of web sources collected through the first four months of the COVID-19 crisis, it reveals the establishment of a mainstream discourse from platform representatives, the presence of forms of systematic devoicing among workers, and the emergence of a paternalistic attitude enacted by the platforms in continuity with the pre-crisis situation. Implications are drawn for the literature on digital labour, and for the study of emerging solidarity networks among workers subjected to subalternity.
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Social Impact and Information Systems, digital labour, platforms, subaltern studies, digital work, covid-19
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