Platform sabotage

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Why are unprofitable gig work platforms so highly valued? Recent scholarship argues that gig platforms configure their data and computational infrastructure as financial assets, and that this speculative valuation offsets monetary losses on ride-hailing and food-delivery services. At the root of this valuation, however, is a narrative of efficiency and optimization that has little bearing on platforms’ on-the-ground operations. In practice, gig work platforms are remarkably inefficient. I build on Veblen's work on the business enterprise to argue that platforms’ financial exceptionalism owes to their unique capacity to strategically insert inefficiencies within and beyond the market encounters they broker, a pattern that I call ‘platform sabotage.’ The paper offers five vignettes of platform sabotage at work, illustrating how platforms target their strategic inefficiencies across various constituencies of market actors. The paper concludes with discussion of sabotage as a modality of platformization.




Shapiro, A. (2023). Platform sabotage. Journal of Cultural Economy, 16(2), 203–220.

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