Veranstaltung: Digital Economies Lecture Series Winter Semester 2021-22, Department of Human Geography, Goethe University Frankfurt

Most of the lectures will be via Zoom and all are on Wednesday afternoons. Please do get in touch with Lizzie Richardson ( if you would like to attend a specific lecture.

12pm November 3rd 2021 (Zoom)
David Bissell, University of Melbourne
Changing sensations in digital platform economies
Building on critical geographic research on the embodied politics of labour that has explored how different forms of work transform bodily capacities for action, this paper argues that a body’s capacity to be affected is an overlooked aspect of a labouring body’s power. In response, the paper develops the concept of anaesthesia in relation to work by explaining how a reduced capacity to be affected can be both politically constraining and enabling for the bodies involved. Through qualitative fieldwork with digital platform workers, the paper presents three narratives that express the embodied complexities of this insecure work. Concealment, projection and resignation are explored as anaesthetic bodily tactics that constitute a refusal to inhabit certain depleting experiences. By drawing attention to such survival strategies, the paper highlights how workers’ changing capacities for feeling are just as significant for understanding worker agency as their changing capacities for action.

2pm November 17th 2021 (Zoom)
Anne Helmond, University of Amsterdam
Platformisation: tracing partnerships and data flows in the digital economy
This talk aims to understand the digital economy of the global audience data market by considering how economic value is not created within a single platform but should be understood from the perspective of a highly interconnected platform ecosystem. It examines the business ecosystems of social media to understand how data mediates value creation and how platform partners contribute to the process of platformisation. In this context, platformisation is understood as the process driving the technological expansion and economic growth of digital platforms beyond their current boundaries, markets, industries, and societal domains. Through a case study that maps the actors and data channels of the audience economy it demonstrates how strategic business partners mediate and shape platform power through their collective infrastructure development. Such mappings of the audience economy and their underlying data markets can help to make the invisible networks of data collection, processing, activation, and exchange visible and locate sources of strategic and infrastructural power. Ultimately, it provides a call for studying platformisation and its consequences empirically in order to situate and contextualise platforms and their power.

2pm December 8th 2021 (Zoom)
John Stehlin, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Mobility Platforms and Transportation Futures in the Digital City
The past decade has seen an explosion in digital mobility platforms, which include services like Uber, DriveNow, and Emmy as well as emerging, more sophisticated “mobility-as-a-service” platforms like Whim and Kyyti, which coordinate multiple discrete services into a single portal, as modes of reworking everyday urban transport in cities of North America, Europe, and East Asia in particular. This presentation contextualizes this trend as part of a broader phenomenon of platform urbanism, in which existing urban functions are increasingly digitally mediated, data-driven, and algorithmically governed. It explores the diverse trajectories of platformization as an ongoing process, focusing on the firms, institutions, and  social interests involved and the infrastructures, spaces, and governance structures that mobility platforms produce. The talk concludes with a discussion of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the platformization of mobility in particular, as well as its implications for platform urbanism more broadly.

2pm January 26th 2022 (tbc)
Julia Corwin, LSE
Analog labour in a digital world: the value of repair work in India’s used electronics economy
This talk follows the return of electronic waste back into commodity circuits through widespread processes of reuse, repair and remanufacturing across Delhi, India. Tracing the movements of ‘‘waste’’ from the scrap shop back into secondary use industries, I situate e-waste in India as operating primarily within robust economies of reuse and repair, rather than waste and recycling. Instead of managing waste, India’s broad reuse industries are production-based, maintaining and making new things out of a diversity of new and used materials. Rooted in the creative reinvention of electronics and their reentry into commodity circuits, this work exists in what is otherwise conceived of as a world in the digital ‘cloud,’ the ephemeral and immaterial world of the human mind and the computer processor. Focusing on the analog nature of this work: the detailed work with diverse technologies and the personal trade networks that facilitate it, helps to revalue the discarded materials and ‘waste’-based labor, and demonstrates their centrality to electronic ‘waste’ economies. This re-centering of India’s used electronics sector provides a small-scale view into the complex and unpredictable workings of electronics industries, in which things move between waste and value, informal and formal, and global and local.

2pm February 9th 2022 (Zoom)
Daniel Cockayne, University of Waterloo
Entrepreneurship and the digital economy in San Francisco
San Francisco and its surrounding regional economy have a reputation as being the center of the digital economy in the US. This reputation for startup incubation success is evidenced through the significant amount of venture capital sourced from and invested in Bay Area firms, and by high incomes for the region’s highest earners compared to similar urban contexts. Yet, the political economy of The Bay Area is characterized too by dramatic and growing economic inequality, rapid gentrification, and a diverse population who are disproportionately unable to share in the successes of the digital media economy. Even for those who can work in startup firms, working environments are often highly stressful, inflexible, prone to failure, and a toxic environment for gendered and racialized minorities. This talk explores the regional economy of San Francisco and Silicon Valley based on empirical research with startup workers in the city, and secondary data on the regional economy from a feminist economic geography perspective, while focussing too on a historical perspective that emphasizes how the region was able to establish and maintain its current levels of venture investment, high incomes for some, and inequality. Far from being an unfortunate secondary effect or so-called “negative externality” of the regional economy, I argue that Silicon Valley’s inequality and wealth are intimately connected phenomena.