Gig Economy Platforms

As part of the Wallenberg Digital Innovation Program Seminar series we are visited by Professor Koen Frenken from the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University. Professor Franken will share research insights from a study of institutional logics and the gig economy.

Abstract: We witness rising tensions between online gig-economy platforms, incumbent firms, regulators, and labor unions. In this chapter, we use the framework of institutional logics as an analytical lens and scheme to understand the fundamental institutional challenges prompted by the advent of the online gig economy. We view gig-economy platforms as  corporations that organize and self-regulate markets. In doing so, they span two parallel markets: the market for platforms competing to provide intermediation services and the market for the self-employed competing on platforms to provide peer-to-peer services. Self-regulation by platforms also weakens the traditional roles of the state. While the corporation and market logics empower the platform, they weaken self-employed suppliers as platforms’ design constrain suppliers to grow into a full-fledged business by limiting their entrepreneurial freedom. At the same time, current labor law generally does not classify suppliers as employees of the platform company, which limits the possibility to unionize. The current resolutions to this institutional misalignment are sought in “band aid solutions” at the level of sectors. Instead, as we argue, macro-institutional reform may be needed to re-institutionalize gig work into established institutional logics.

Short bio: Koen Frenken is Full Professor in Innovation Studies at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. 
He won personal grants in the Marie Curie and NWO Vidi and Vici programmes. His research focus is on breakthrough innovation, platform and sharing economy, and innovation policy. 
Theoretical interests include evolutionary economics, institutional sociology and complexity theory. 
Frenken holds a joint PhD from the University of Grenoble (applied economics) and the University of Amsterdam (social sciences).

Please reach out to Olgerta Tona for a formal invitation if you wish to attend.