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  • Mark 9:43 am on November 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: andrew chen, gig economy, , platform economy   

    The promise of the ‘passion economy’ 

    This interesting piece from Li Jin suggests a transition from a gig economy to a passion economy. Both facilitate economic action by individuals but the former reduces their individuality to a single attribute (driving a car, delivering food) whereas the latter allows them to offer services premised on that individuality (teaching students, offering analysis). In practice it’s a case of knowledge-products being offered digitally in a way which scales beyond the local environment to which such people were formerly restricted. The platform facilitates these interactions while trying to ensure people remain on platform by offering additional value to the interaction through features like workflow and scheduling tools. There’s a huge hole in the argument which barely needs pointing out:

    The top-earning writer on the paid newsletter platform Substack earns more than $500,000 a year from reader subscriptions. The top content creator on Podia, a platform for video courses and digital memberships, makes more than $100,000 a month. And teachers across the US are bringing in thousands of dollars a month teaching live, virtual classes on Outschool and Juni Learning.

    It seems likely we’ll see a long tail distribution here in which these headline figures distract from the vast majority of users who earn next to nothing through the platforms, with the shiny novelty of the technology distracting from the broader context of underemployment in which people turn to platforms like this to top up their incomes. Nevertheless, it seems plausible that this trend is going to grow and Jin offers an industry-centric theorisation of it which I’m planning to come back to.

  • Mark 6:00 am on May 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , platform economy, , , , , ,   

    The price fixing conspiracies of the platform economy  

    A great analysis of a hugely important case being heard in the near future:

    The immediate threat takes the form of an antitrust class action lawsuit against its co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, which will be litigated in the Manhattan courtroom of Federal District Judge Jed Rakoff starting on November 1. At issue is Uber’s mobile app, through which customers order on-demand car rides, and which customer Spencer Meyer alleges amounts to a price-fixing conspiracy. The question is whether independent Uber drivers using the app, all charging the same price and implementing “surge pricing” at the same time, are violating the Sherman Antitrust Act’s prohibition against any “combination … or conspiracy … in restraint of trade.”

    The lawsuit puts Uber and other companies in the online economy on a collision course with antitrust law. It also raises fundamental questions about how American companies treat their workers. It’s not surprising that tech companies can make a great deal of money by skirting employment, antitrust, and even anti-discrimination laws. But do we want them to? Some argue that the Uber conundrum calls for the creation of a third “independent worker” category of employment that gives it the control it needs to make its business model work, while safeguarding the flexibility its drivers prize. If courts and policymakers agree, it would effectively carve out a tech-sector exception to the regulatory principles governing the economy since the New Deal and the Gilded Age.


    The questions asked at the end are precisely the ones currently preoccupying me:

     Are the new behemoths of the tech sector innovators that make the economy more efficient by “disrupting” antiquated business models? Or are they just the trusts of a second Gilded Age, their new-fangled apps the equivalent of the railroad networks that monopolized commerce and access to markets 126 years ago, when the Sherman Act first took effect?


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