Platform Capitalism: Digital Economy in the 21st Century
68 Jay Street, #308
Brooklyn, NY 11201
A somewhat new, and highly profitable, feature of the economic landscape is the “platform”—a digital infrastructure powered by algorithms and automation that enables users to connect and interact. Making platforms valuable are zero marginal costs, non-linear scaling effects, and the economics of networks—all of which lead to positive feedback mechanisms, winner-take-all dynamics, and dominance of the market by a single firm or technology. This has led to the emergence of large “tech” behemoths—Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, etc.—that are uniquely positioned to discipline labor in new ways, extract and control unprecedented volumes of data, outsource risk, and assert governance and quasi-regulatory power over entire segments of the new digital economy. How did online audiences and digital revenue get so concentrated? What do online monopolies mean for business and society at large?
In this course, we will explore the nature and characteristics of the new platform digital economy. How is value created and distributed in “platform capitalism”? Has the platform economy inaugurated a new regime of capital accumulation? What kind of social and political order does it entail? Are platform workers “entreprenurial” or somehow more free, as euphemisms like the “sharing,” “gig,” or “on-demand” economy imply? Or, does the platform economy invariably depress wages, entrench existing inequalities and biases, and institute a new kind of surveillance regime? Drawing from a variety of books and articles, including Nick Srnicek’s Platform Capitalism, Matthew Hindman’s The Internet Trap, and Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson’s Machine Platform Crowd, this course will critically examine the emerging dominance of the platform business model and its implications for jobs, growth, and inequality.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm
March 02 — March 23, 2020