Work and Value Creation in the Platform Economy

Forthcoming, Research in the Sociology of Work edited by Anne Kovalainen and Steven Vallas

48 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2018 Last revised: 5 Aug 2019

See all articles by Martin Kenney

Martin Kenney

University of California, Davis

John Zysman

University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: September 9, 2018


The emergence of the platform economy is reorganizing work, employment and value creation. We argue that the digital platforms are fracturing work itself as the places and types of work are being reorganized into a myriad of platform organized work arrangements with workplaces being potentially anywhere with Internet connectivity. We differ from most traditional narratives that focus solely upon either work displacement, a single type of platform-organized value-creating activity, or David Weil’s concentration upon the solely upon the workplace. We recognize that even as some work is replaced, other work is being transformed; new work and old work in new arrangements is being created and recreated. Our taxonomy begins with the workers employed directly by the platform and its contractors. We then introduce the category, platform-mediated work, which we divide into three groups: marketplaces such as Amazon; in-person service provision such as Uber and Airbnb; and remote service provision such as Upwork. The next category, “platform-mediated content creation,” is complex. We identify three groups of activities: consignment content creators that include services such as the app stores, YouTube, and Amazon Self-Publishing; non-platform organization content producers, which refers to the enormous number of workers occupied with creating and maintaining websites; user-generated content is the non-compensated value creation that ranges from content uploaded to Facebook, Instagram etc. to reviews on sites such as Yelp! It is only when work and value creation is considered in all of these platform-based manifestations can we understand the ultimate dimensions of the platform economy and comprehensively understand its implications for work.

Keywords: platform economy, user-generated content, venture labor, internet, work force, contractors

Suggested Citation

Kenney, Martin and Zysman, John, Work and Value Creation in the Platform Economy (September 9, 2018). Forthcoming, Research in the Sociology of Work edited by Anne Kovalainen and Steven Vallas , Available at SSRN:

Martin Kenney (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis ( email )

Community and Regional Development Unit
Davis, CA 95616
United States
5305745943 (Phone)

John Zysman

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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