The Experiences Literature Review
From our definition of platform livelihoods, and drawing on a detailed literature review of 75 studies of platform livelihoods in the global South, we address three broad questions for the digital development community:
We identify twelve elements—the kinds of experiences that individuals share and value when discussing their livelihoods with friends, family, and even the occasional researcher. They are a mix of economic, subjective, and broader human development experiences. Explore them below.
We offer a landscape of nine illustrative types of platform livelihood. Note that these are roles that individuals or small enterprises can fill, rather than “business models” or the names of specific platforms.
These are not the only roles that platforms are transforming or enabling, but these nine represent enough of the diversity in platform livelihoods to make two key distinctions. These types mix local and global (digital only) markets. Some of these roles are for individuals seeking work and offering their labor. Some of these roles are for small enterprises and even small farms, looking for new sales channels and new ways to connect with markets.
The early research and policy literature has been concentrated in platform work, especially ride-hailing, freelancing, and microwork, but in the longer run, platform sales (whether via marketplaces, social commerce, or search and discovery) may end up altering the livelihoods of a greater number of people around the world.
By providing a common language framework and a map of several kinds of platform livelihoods, this framework can help uncover many trends and cross cutting issues. For example, in this first iteration of the literature review we used the framework to explore four durable themes: gender, rurality, youth, and COVID-19. We also outline four emergent dynamics worthy of scrutiny: fractional work, amplification, hidden hierarchies, and contestation.
We hope that you might and use this framework in your own research, design, or policymaking activities. All the materials in this framework are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International. We ask only that you provide attribution if this turns out to be useful to your research.
We’ve been busy researching multiple sectors (freelancing, ride-hailing, social commerce, nanostores, asset sharing, etc) and all the elements (working, trading, renting, and creating) that are found within it. Check out our other studies to learn more.
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