From commodification to free labor: The gendered effects of the Etsy platform on work
Jourdain, Anne (2019), From commodification to free labor: The gendered effects of the Etsy platform on work, Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association, 2019-09, Neuchâtel, Switzerland
TypeCommunication / Conférence
Conference titleCongress of the Swiss Sociological Association
MetadataShow full item record
Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Sciences Sociales [IRISSO]
Abstract (EN)The CAPLA project aims at analyzing the social effects of digital platforms fostering the commodification of personal goods orservices (Foulefactory, La Ruche qui dit oui, Uber…). In this presentation, we will discuss the effects of platform capitalism onwork by focusing especially on one platform: Etsy, dedicated to handmade products (bags, clothes, jewelry…).88% of Etsy creators are women. In a post-Fordist era, this female phenomenon of commodification is encouraged by discourses about“New Domesticity” which encourage middle-class women to work at home in order to better balance their work and family life, as a way to “have it all” (Adkins and Dever, 2016). For women, online commodification would be synonymous with social upgrading and empowerment. However, the revenues coming from the platform are extremely low. Most sellers are hobbyists who are employed in firms unrelated to craft and who do not intend to professionalize their hobby. But even those who try to set a business – following the platform’s tagline “turn your hobby into a business” – generally do not manage to make a living via Etsy. Both cases particularly raise the question of free labor (Terranova, 2000; Simonet, 2018): paradoxically, online commodification generates extra money but also forms of extra work which are not monetized. Two forms of free labor can be differentiated. The first form has to do with the intensive “digital labor” (Scholz, 2013) required by the platform. Such extra work concerns all Etsy sellers, including the most successful ones, but also many other digital workers investigated in the CAPLA project. The second form especially affects the numerous women on Etsy who endorse the “having it all” ideal and who set their business at home, sometimes after leaving an unsatisfactory salaried job in a big company. In this case, free labor refers to traditional domestic labor (housekeeping, child care…) and benefits male partners.
Subjects / Keywordscommodification
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