Tension between autonomy and dependency: insights into platform work of professional (video)bloggers

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  • 1 University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
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The purpose of this article is to extend knowledge and understanding of work in the platform economy by focusing on the phenomenon of (video)blogging on and around social media platforms. The growth of the platform economy has attracted considerable attention in recent years. As yet, however, research has focused almost exclusively on labour platforms that operate to match the supply of and demand for paid work in fields such as food delivery, ride hailing, cleaning or data entry activities. Surprisingly little is known about work and its manifestations on other platforms, despite the fact that the platform economy embraces a huge variety of arrangements for income generation. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 18 German (video)bloggers we show that (video)blogging constitutes a specific form of ‘digital self-employment’ that combines features of traditional self-employment with digitally mediated dependencies. While (video)bloggers enjoy both a great deal of independence from managerial control and a high degree of autonomy, they are also subject to the rules and algorithms set by large tech companies. The example of (video)blogging, together with the experiences of (video)bloggers, highlights the extent to which the platform economy has created new types of work that need to be taken into consideration to enable a deeper understanding of the evolving dynamics of the platform economy and how these are transforming the nature of work.

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