Geographic Implications of Platforms for Labor and Work: Cases and Questions


As the platform economy has risen and matured, it has had geographic consequences. Today, platforms can be understood as gigantic machines for organizationally and spatially centralizing value and thus power. This article proceeds in two steps First, we discuss the concentration of platform giants in terms of location on the US West Coast and market share in various services, such as search, maps and online sales. This has troubling implications: the fact that platforms are simultaneously intermediaries, two-sided markets, and data aggregators, creates synergies for platform owners and contradictions for those using the platform. Second, we use the cases of Amazon and Google Maps (GM) to demonstrate this, examining the extensive reach of these platforms in terms of the markets that they serve and shape, and their spatial consequences. We conclude by identifying areas for future research and by calling upon social scientists to consider the implications of the platform economy in reshaping the space of economic activity.

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Publication date: 
October 23, 2021
Publication type: 
Working Paper