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Call for papers

Proposal for a special issue of The Sociological Review.
Please send an abstract to xxxx@xxx.xx before 29 May 2017.
If the proposal is accepted, final articles will be due in April 2018

Digitisation expands old practices such as exchange, co-production, and consumption. This shift in size might also be a shift in nature, creating widespread social change. Transformations in production arise from the emergence of crowdsourcing, platform capitalism and the so-called "gig economy", not to mention communication and increased connectivity - both online and through complex global infrastructures. In turn, consumption changes with new forms of leisure that blur the boundaries between work and play. As with other forms of technology, digital tools and machines are socially built and used. They surface out of social relations, and are then used and developed within these.

The academic literature on this subjects is multidisciplinary. In the fields of economics and management, digitisation is described as a “disruptive” opportunity to enter new markets and added value for shareholders. Focus is on the organisational dimension of the phenomenon, the “business model”, and on the positive role of start-ups and entrepreneurs. This view tends to generate consensus across society. Here, sociologists have an important role to play in critically analysing social changes, denaturalising the phenomenon and questioning existing categories of thought. At a time when rapid changes are inducing new social regulations, fresh thinking on digitisation is urgently needed, particularly in sociological perspective, to understand what is happening in that so called “digital economy”.

The planned special issue of The Sociological Review will bring together path-breaking analyses of the social changes that produce digital devices, but also use them in specific ways, and are in turn generated by this movement. We welcome three main types of contributions :

• First, one may question the catchwords of the moment like “digital”, “platform”, “disruption”, “collaborative economy”, “crowd”, “community” and “gig economy”. This requires tracing the social history of these words and concepts, and questioning their social producion, critically appraising the power relations and political economy at stake.

• Second, we need sociological inquiries. Digital automation is a dynamic that could trigger widespread changes, but is as of yet under-researched from a critical perspective. The changes in the organisation of work remain obscured behind digital platforms. Most existing analyses stress the risks of dismantling workers’ rights (minimum wage, maximum working time, social security, employers’ risk-taking responsibilities and so on), whilst increasing control on the activities and behaviours of both producers and consumers. The blurring of the boundaries between professionalism and amateurism, work and consumption, paid and unpaid labour, is an important point to address.
• Third, sociologists have a responsibility to explain and criticize the social dynamics underlying these social relationships. Without necessarily aiming at prediction, such research can contribute to providing tools and arguments to the actors involved, and to fostering and encouraging creative approaches to collective action and policy-making.

We are seeking contributions that take a sociological perspective on digital labour and platform capitalism, crossing empirical research with theoretical developments. In particular :

• The production of platforms and platformization : new ways of producing and consuming, including sociological analysis of the main actors involved.

• Continuity and change in work and its various aspects : division of labour, the labour process, management and control, status, wages, precarity, local regulations, health.

• The life course and sociological analysis of entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers,focusing on their relationship indiachronic perspective.

• The social regulations of this new social configuration : how do traditional actors (the state, trade unions, and so on) participate to regulate this new configuration ? Are there new actors emerging ? What are the new rules in the regulation process ? What could be done in this context ?

• Institutional changes carried out by digitisation and platformization (markets, states, firms, trade unions)

• How current changes require a new interpretation of classical concepts such as work, labour, game and play.
These contributions will form an important part of the debate on digital labour, platform capitalism, and future research agendas on these topics.

Amongst the hyperbole that surrounds automation and platforms, critical and empirical research are urgently needed. As this is an interdisciplinary field of research, arguments and findings might remain hidden in particular disciplinary silos. This special issue intends to broaden out the theoretical and empirical discussion, from sociology and into other disciplines.

Practical information :
• Special session edited by Marie-Anne Dujarier (Paris Diderot University) and Jamie Woodcock (LSE), in collaboration with ENDL (European Network on Digital Labour).
• Please send your short abstract (approx 200 words) to XXXXXXX@XXXXXXX.XX by 29 May 2017.More about The Sociological Review :

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