Fractious Connections: Anarchy, Activism, Coordination, and Control

9 – 11 luglio 2022, Amsterdam, Paesi Bassi



As part of the conference, Weplat’s research team presented a paper entitled:

Platform Welfare: From Isomorphism to Heterogeneity

The emergence of digital platforms is related to thorough transformations in every sector of the economy, as well as other societal domains such as – to name but a few – education, energy, the media and personal services. The birth of several ad hoc notions like “platform logic” (Schwarz, 2017), “platform society” (van Dijck et al., 2018), “platform capitalism” (Langley & Leyshon, 2017; Srnicek, 2017) or “platform economy” (Kenney & Zysman, 2016) signals a focus on platform-related transformations at the macro level, while another area of research concerns the working conditions and representation of platform workers (Lehdonvirta, 2018; Casilli 2018; Schor 2020).
The study of the platform as an organisational model has received less theoretical attention (Eurofound 2018; Stark & Pais 2020) and has promoted less empirical analysis. This paper aims to fill this gap by proposing an organisational analysis of welfare platforms. The scholarly attention paid to platforms tend to analyze them as a homogeneous corpus. Schor (2020) have already questioned this presumed homogeneity, analyzing the heterogeneity of workers; we intend to propose a similar analytical exercise by examining the organizational model.
Our hypothesis is that the platform is not neutral with respect to goods/service they intermediate and that the provision of welfare services has specific features that require the construction of organizational models at least in part ad hoc for the sector (Fosti 2016; Dupret 2017; Ticona, Mateescu 2018; Flanagan 2019; Huws 2020; Casula et al. 2020).
The paper presents the first results of the WePlat research project (Welfare systems in the age of platforms: drivers of change for users, providers and policy makers, We have mapped the welfare platforms present in Italy, identifying and analysing 67 of them and we are carrying out the case study of 9 platforms: 3 with direct access by users, 3 with indirect access and 3 with mixed access.
Analysis is based on interviewing managers and operators, shadowing, and etnographic analysis in relation to: governance, market positioning, business models, data policies, complexity of tasks, workers’ autonomy, labor organization, relationship between user and operator, algorithmic management.
From the initial evidence, it emerges not only a heterogeneity of welfare platforms compared to platforms operating in other sectors, but also an organizational heterogeneity within the welfare platforms. The paper questions the origins of this field heterogeneity, taking into consideration the role of ‘institutional complexity’ (Greenwood et al. 2011), the relevance of ‘institutional entrepreneurship’ (Battilana, Leca and Boxembaum 2009), the practices of ‘translation’ (Czarniawska & Joerges 1996) and the presence of ‘islands of homogeneity’ (Greeve 1996) determined by the territorial embeddedness of welfare platforms and by the role of bounded communities of practices. In this analysis, particular attention will be paid to the difference between platforms that are created as start-ups and platforms promoted as part of a digital transformation strategy of already established enterprises.

Cecilia Manzo, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Ivana Pais, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore


The whole programme: LINK