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Title:The platform economy in China: algorithm, labor, and digital capitalism
Author(s):Li, Ke
Director of Research:Ciafone, Amanda
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Ciafone, Amanda
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Christians, Clifford; Hay, James; Martin, Jeffery
Department / Program:Inst of Communications Rsch
Discipline:Communications and Media
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Digital Capitalism
Abstract:This dissertation charts the development of one of the most valuable platforms in China, Didi Chuxing. Characterized by a spectacular growth of the market scale, Didi is the most prominent, illustrative, and yet under-researched example of the thriving platform economy. It reveals how Didi’s pursuit of corporate power takes shape in China’s key economic and social transformations: economic restructuring, migrant labor surplus, favorable policy environments for the digital economy, and technology worship. Through this case, this project aims to theorize the consequences of digital technologies on labor in contemporary China. Using a qualitative approach that combines in-depth interviews, observations, documentary research, and textual analyses, the dissertation argues that Didi’s success is the remarkable expression and extension of an on-going process of digital proletariats. Such a tendency is particularly striking in China, a country that favors developmentalism over social equality and has deep-seated worship of technology. It also argues that the platform economy’s technological architectures—platforms, big data, and algorithms—open new possibilities for capitalism to commodify and centralize the dispersed labor force and labor process that features the service economy. Through the largely neglected lens of technicians and managers in an organizational context, this work addresses the lacuna of existing Chinese ICT literature that prioritizes a state-centrism perspective regardless of the agency of technologies and internet companies. By bringing the Chinese platform company into the foreground, my work complicates the emerging study of the platform economy dominated by Western scholars.
Issue Date:2020-07-17
Rights Information:Copyright, 2020, KE LI
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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