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36

Platform Capitalism

0
terms
7
notes

Srnicek, N. (2016). Platform Capitalism. In Srnicek, N. Platform Capitalism. Polity Press, pp. 36-92

49

[...] the important element is that the capitalist class owns the platform, not necessarily that it produces a physical product [...]

  • ad platforms (Google, FB) that analyse user data to sell ad space
  • cloud platforms (AWS, Salesforce) that own the hardware and software and charge subscription fees based on usage
  • industrial platforms (GE, Siemens), for making manufacturing more internet-connected and thus more efficient (and cheaper)
  • product platforms (Rolls Royce, Spotify) turning traditional goods into service, collecting rents/subscription fees
  • lean platforms (Uber, Airbnb) that don't own any assets

(Amazon fits basically all of the categories, with its different products)

—p.49 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] the important element is that the capitalist class owns the platform, not necessarily that it produces a physical product [...]

  • ad platforms (Google, FB) that analyse user data to sell ad space
  • cloud platforms (AWS, Salesforce) that own the hardware and software and charge subscription fees based on usage
  • industrial platforms (GE, Siemens), for making manufacturing more internet-connected and thus more efficient (and cheaper)
  • product platforms (Rolls Royce, Spotify) turning traditional goods into service, collecting rents/subscription fees
  • lean platforms (Uber, Airbnb) that don't own any assets

(Amazon fits basically all of the categories, with its different products)

—p.49 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago
56

[...] if our online interactions are free labour, then these companies must be a significant boon to capitalism overall--a whole new landscape of exploited labour has been opened up. On the other hand, if this is not free labour, then these firms are parasitical on other value-producing industries and global capitalism is in a more dire state. A quick glance at the stagnating global economy suggests that the latter is more likely.

Rather than exploiting free labour, the position taken here is that advertising platforms appropriate data as a raw material. [...]

on whether user activity counts as labour (whose definition is: activity that generates a surplus within a market and production process oriented toward exchange)

so these ad platforms are making money based on an inefficiency in the market and don't actually create any value except insofar as they subsidize the parts of the corporations that do (e.g., google maps?)

—p.56 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] if our online interactions are free labour, then these companies must be a significant boon to capitalism overall--a whole new landscape of exploited labour has been opened up. On the other hand, if this is not free labour, then these firms are parasitical on other value-producing industries and global capitalism is in a more dire state. A quick glance at the stagnating global economy suggests that the latter is more likely.

Rather than exploiting free labour, the position taken here is that advertising platforms appropriate data as a raw material. [...]

on whether user activity counts as labour (whose definition is: activity that generates a surplus within a market and production process oriented toward exchange)

so these ad platforms are making money based on an inefficiency in the market and don't actually create any value except insofar as they subsidize the parts of the corporations that do (e.g., google maps?)

—p.56 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago
66

[...] In one test factory from BASF SE [...] the assembly line is capable of individually customising every unit that comes down the line: individual soap bottles can have different fragrances, colours, labels, and soaps, all being automatically produced once a customer places an order. [...]

this is the world capitalism has wrought

—p.66 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] In one test factory from BASF SE [...] the assembly line is capable of individually customising every unit that comes down the line: individual soap bottles can have different fragrances, colours, labels, and soaps, all being automatically produced once a customer places an order. [...]

this is the world capitalism has wrought

—p.66 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago
72

[...] While subscription models have been around for centuries, for example in newspapers, what is novel today is their expansion to new realms [...] Part of what has enabled these product platforms to flourish in recent years is the stagnation in wages and the decline in savings [...] seemingly cheaper upfront fees appear more enticing. [...]

on product platforms, esp music

I don't fully agree with this analysis - I think the ability to rent only when you need something vs. buy & have it sit idle most of the time is great, and I think consumers recognise that and the flourishing of these platforms is primarily a result of their advantage. though ofc i think things like Spotify, Netflix, etc should be free because anything with zero marginal cost should be free (at least eventually) but that's a whole other line of reasoning

—p.72 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] While subscription models have been around for centuries, for example in newspapers, what is novel today is their expansion to new realms [...] Part of what has enabled these product platforms to flourish in recent years is the stagnation in wages and the decline in savings [...] seemingly cheaper upfront fees appear more enticing. [...]

on product platforms, esp music

I don't fully agree with this analysis - I think the ability to rent only when you need something vs. buy & have it sit idle most of the time is great, and I think consumers recognise that and the flourishing of these platforms is primarily a result of their advantage. though ofc i think things like Spotify, Netflix, etc should be free because anything with zero marginal cost should be free (at least eventually) but that's a whole other line of reasoning

—p.72 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago
76

[...] It would seem that these are asset-less companies; we might call them virtual platforms. Yet the key is that they do own the most important asset: the platform of software and data analytics. Lean platforms operate through a hyper-outsourced model, whereby workers are outsourced, fixed capital is outsourced, maintenance costs are outsourced, and training is outsourced. All that remains is a bare extractive minimum--control over the platform that enables a monopoly rent to be gained.

another asset is of course reputation. look at what's been happening to Uber lately

—p.76 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] It would seem that these are asset-less companies; we might call them virtual platforms. Yet the key is that they do own the most important asset: the platform of software and data analytics. Lean platforms operate through a hyper-outsourced model, whereby workers are outsourced, fixed capital is outsourced, maintenance costs are outsourced, and training is outsourced. All that remains is a bare extractive minimum--control over the platform that enables a monopoly rent to be gained.

another asset is of course reputation. look at what's been happening to Uber lately

—p.76 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago
78

[...] the traditional labour market that most closely approximates the lean platform model is an old and low-tech one: the market of day labourers--agricultural workers, dock workers, or other low-wage workers--who would show up at a site in the morning in the hope of finding a job for the day. [...] The gig economy simply moves these sites online and adds a layer of pervasive surveillance. A tool of survival is being marketed by Silicon Valley as a tool of liberation.

so good

—p.78 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] the traditional labour market that most closely approximates the lean platform model is an old and low-tech one: the market of day labourers--agricultural workers, dock workers, or other low-wage workers--who would show up at a site in the morning in the hope of finding a job for the day. [...] The gig economy simply moves these sites online and adds a layer of pervasive surveillance. A tool of survival is being marketed by Silicon Valley as a tool of liberation.

so good

—p.78 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago
86

[...] Where is the money coming from? Broadly speaking, it is surplus capital seeking higher rates of return in a low interest rate environment. The low interest rates have depressed the returns on traditional financial investments, forcing investors to seek out new avenues for yield. Rather than a finance boom or a housing boom, surplus capital today appears to be building a technology boom. [...] Just like the earlier dot-com boom, growth in the lean platform sector is premised on expectations of future profits rather than on actual profits. The hope is that the low margin business of taxis will eventually pay off once Uber has gained a monopoly position. Until these firms reach monopoly status (and possibly even then), their profitability appears to be generated solely by the removal of costs and the lowering of wages and not by anything substantial.

instead of a "vanguard destined to revive capitalism" (p91), lean platforms are just the latest outlet for all this surplus capital ... this, too, shall pass

—p.86 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] Where is the money coming from? Broadly speaking, it is surplus capital seeking higher rates of return in a low interest rate environment. The low interest rates have depressed the returns on traditional financial investments, forcing investors to seek out new avenues for yield. Rather than a finance boom or a housing boom, surplus capital today appears to be building a technology boom. [...] Just like the earlier dot-com boom, growth in the lean platform sector is premised on expectations of future profits rather than on actual profits. The hope is that the low margin business of taxis will eventually pay off once Uber has gained a monopoly position. Until these firms reach monopoly status (and possibly even then), their profitability appears to be generated solely by the removal of costs and the lowering of wages and not by anything substantial.

instead of a "vanguard destined to revive capitalism" (p91), lean platforms are just the latest outlet for all this surplus capital ... this, too, shall pass

—p.86 by Nick Srnicek 2 years, 3 months ago