“…Platform economy as one of the leading vectors for the transformations of the economy as well as of society and politics writ large.”

We, The University of Bologna — Alma Mater Studiorum, are deeply convinced of the relevance of the PLUS project since we have taken the initiative to launch it and we have framed the proposal. The members of our research team have been working for some time now, both individually and collaboratively, on such topics as logistics, urban transformations, and labour.

The drafting of the project has been for us a chance to develop a tentative framework to grasp the connections between such topics. Since the beginning we have considered platforms as complex assemblages, which cannot be reduced to their technical basis.

In fact, we consider platform economy as one of the leading vectors for the transformations of the economy as well as of society and politics writ large. At the same time we are convinced that it is possible and productive to take platforms as “lenses” that enable an original analysis of wider economic, social, and political processes.

The operations of so-called platforms have deep implications for the labour market and process. However, their effects go far beyond that, raising for citizens and policy-makers crucial challenges to imagine and prompt a fairer development.

The topics of welfare, redistribution and social protections represent the test bed for the capacity of our society to open up a public debate on such ongoing transformations in order to formulate common policies and take necessary decisions. To put it differently, we have to move from a platform-regulated market towards a fairer-regulated market where citizens and policy makers can still have a leading role in our democracy.

The PLUS project aims to contribute to this effort proposing an innovative approach to the issue, focusing both on the urban and on the European levels as fundamental stages where shared solutions can be planned and tested. We call this a trans-urban approach that aims to enhance the role of local actors into global processes. Developing such an approach we will attempt to discern processes and transformations that cut across the distinct urban spaces that we will investigate while at the same time we will not lose sight of the historical and cultural, social and political specificity of such spaces.

The multidisciplinary approach that shapes the project is the result of the attempt to frame the emerging phenomenon of platform economy from different but related points of view: labour laws, local taxation, business organization, regulative policies are all at stake in the project.

There is a need to add that we do not limit ourselves to research activities, which are of course a crucial aspect of PLUS. We are rather going to explore potential alternative business models (with some pilot platform cooperatives) and guidelines for labour protections and profit redistribution.

This research-action, as we want to call it, will be co-created through the involvement of multiple actors engaged in the development and working of platform economy, from local administrations to trade unions, from company managers to workers.

The University of Bologna will supervise the whole research and, at the same time, will specifically contribute on same tasks, in particular to the forging of a research framework capable to grasp the historical development and legal implications of the ongoing transformations at stake in the project. Our research team will particularly investigate therefore the genealogy of platform labour and the legal conditions of its development. Moreover, we will contribute to focus groups and “social policy labs” with local stakeholders in order to prompt a more general co-creation process.

Furthermore, our goal is the create bridges between PLUS and other academic and non-academic projects that attempt to come to grips with the challenges of platform economy.

— By University of Bologna.