Platform Activists: Competing or Reiterating Dominant Social, Cultural Forms and Material Relations of Production?

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Athina KARATZOGIANNI, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
Jacob MATTHEWS, Paris 8, France
This research focuses on “commons”, “collaborative”, and “sharing” platforms and asks whether by introducing new ideological-material productions, they are competing or reiterating dominant economic social forms and material relations of production. For the relation between the material and the ideological realms Garnham (1979) uses a 3-level declension a. material relations of production, b. social forms of these relations of production (as in the capitalist “economic” form of waged labour and, c. cultural forms of these relations of production. This type of analysis examines intermediation platforms as producers of material relations of production, social forms, and cultural (ideological) forms. In particular, it interrogates how digital intermediation platforms are positioned in relation to (and feed into) the discourses of the “commons” and the “collaborative economy”. Here, we are discussing Garnham's hypothesis that the more autonomous a cultural form is with regard to the social form and the relations of production themselves, the less effective it is (either for opposing them or for re-enforcing them). In other words, we are approaching the problem of the low effectivity of many oppositional cultural products and discourses and the stronger effectivity of discourses that “cling” to the social forms of capitalist exploitation and the material relations of production that these are based upon. Empirically, we draw from fieldwork research carried out between 2015 and 2017 in Barcelona, Paris and Berlin, with over thirty players from varied institutional settings, from platforms representatives (such as Uber, Airbnb and crowdfunding sites), sharing economy watchdogs, to platform cooperativists, public players, commons-oriented alternative governance groups, as well as digital activists and artists.