Two PhD positions in the ERC project 'Platform Labor'
Faculty of Humanities – Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis
- Publication date
- 16 April 2018
- Level of education
- Master's degree
- Salary indication
- €2,222 to €2,840 gross per month
- Closing date
- 15 September 2018
- 38 hours per week
- Vacancy number
Research at the Faculty of Humanities is carried out by six research schools under the aegis of the Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research. The Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, one of six research schools of the Faculty of Humanities, has two vacant PhD positions as part of the ERC project 'Platform Labor: Digital Transformations of Work and Livelihood in Post-Welfare Societies' (ERC Starting Grant, 2018-2023, Principal Investigator: Dr Niels van Doorn).
Description of the 'Platform Labor' project
Digital platforms like Uber and Airbnb are transforming how people work, create and share value, and sustain themselves in their everyday lives. As such, platforms are becoming increasingly ubiquitous as new institutional actors that redraw relations between civil society, the market, and the state. Yet, as many scholars have shown, such relations have historically been shaped by pervasive gender, class, and racial subordination. It is therefore crucial to ask to what extent platforms, as new sites of capital accumulation, governance, and norm-making, remediate existing inequalities and if/how they also generate new vulnerabilities or tools for empowerment. Accordingly, this project aims to determine how digital platforms are reconfiguring the gendered, classed, and racialized organization of labor and social reproduction in post-welfare societies. This objective will be met through a cross-national comparative study rooted in ethnographic research that examines how platforms operate in three quickly growing and distinct tech hubs: Amsterdam, Berlin, and New York City.
The doctoral project The Urban Opportunities and Challenges of Airbnb focuses on Airbnb, the world’s most popular home-rental platform. Through three ethnographies that will last eight months per city (i.e. Berlin, Amsterdam, New York City), you will investigate the company’s operations in particular neighborhoods by following the practices and experiences of four stakeholders: hosts using the platform, businesses that operate 'on top of' the platform (e.g. key pickup/drop-off, luggage storage, and cleaning services), neighborhood residents, and local government actors. While drawing on emerging research on Airbnb, the doctoral project is set to be innovative in its scope, duration, and method. It features 24 months of ethnographic fieldwork during which you not only compare three popular destinations but also engage multiple stakeholders and connect people’s everyday experiences with the platform to its broader impact on institutions and environments in these cities. Moreover, it introduces a new set of research questions with respect to gender, race, and class, which have so far only played a marginal role in previous research on Airbnb or other asset-sharing platforms. In this way, the doctoral project will answer the following questions:
- Who uses Airbnb to create value and generate a livelihood and how is this accomplished?
- Which stakeholders are not included in such processes of valorization and/or experience Airbnb as an impediment to their interests or survival? What are the reasons for this?
- How would Airbnb have to change its platform in order to redress such problems?
- How does Airbnb affect the socio-economic dynamics of the neighborhoods in these cities, particularly as they pertain to gender, race, and class?
The doctoral project Alternatives to the Corporate Sharing Economy will focus on non-profit, community-based alternatives to the corporate sharing economy in the selected cities. You will conduct one eight-month ethnography in each city, focusing on grassroots initiatives that promote egalitarian, commons-based models of platform-mediated value creation. Such initiatives are dedicated to, for example, food sharing, time banking, or borrowing household goods, but also include cooperatively owned home care and cleaning services. While commons-based platforms are particularly prevalent in Berlin, they are also active NYC and Amsterdam and one main objective of this subproject is to compare how such initiates are developed and maintained in each city. Accordingly, the three case studies aim to answer the following questions within a comparative framework:
- How do small-scale, community-based platforms support the maintenance of everyday life for its participants? Do they offer resources that otherwise wouldn’t be available?
- Who is included and enabled to participate through these local platforms and who isn’t? How do these in/exclusions interact with broader gender, racial, and class inequalities?
- How do these platforms survive? Do they (have to) compete with corporate platforms? Do they receive some form of public support?
- To what extent do these platforms take over functions usually associated with market or state actors?
- successful completion of a PhD thesis within the period of appointment;
- regular presentations of intermediate research results at national and international workshops/conferences;
- completion and submission of four journal article manuscripts, preferably within the period of appointment.
You must have:
- a relevant Master’s degree in the Humanities or Social Sciences, preferably in the fields of sociology, anthropology, urban studies, or political science;
- a strong academic record with relevant and demonstrable work experience, preferably including publications;
- proven affinity with and knowledge of digital platforms and their political economy, especially with respect to “sharing economy” platforms and their wider socio-economic context/impact;
- proven affinity with and knowledge of ethnographic research practice (i.e. fieldwork and its ethics); familiarity with ethnography as well as other qualitative research methods and tools is considered a strong asset;
- excellent written and spoken command of English; at least a working knowledge of German is highly desirable;
- willingness and ability to travel and conduct fieldwork in the aforementioned cities;
- affinity with working in an interdisciplinary and international environment;
Previous work/study experience at civil society organizations is desirable.
We are committed to increasing diversity in the field. We especially welcome applications from women, LGBTQ researchers, members of minority groups, and individuals with disabilities.
Would you like to know more? Please contact:
You will be appointed at the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies. The appointment will be for 48 months, full-time, under the terms of employment currently valid for the Faculty. You will be members of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). The first contract will be for 12 months, with an extension for the following 36 months, contingent on a positive performance evaluation. The intended starting date of the contracts is 1 February 2019.
The gross monthly salary will be €2,222 during the first year to reach €2,840 during the fourth, based on 38 hours per week. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities is applicable. You will additionally benefit from travel grants, and will be required to take active part in a structured, international program of workshops, summer schools, and conferences.
Your application must consist of one PDF or Word document including the following:
- a letter of motivation, stating why you want to carry out this particular research project – please state clearly which doctoral project you are applying for – and why you are the right candidate for this position (no more than 500 words);
- a Curriculum Vitae (no more than 4 pages);
- transcripts of your Bachelor and Master (or equivalent) programs;
- a 'vision statement', describing how you aim to approach the project you are applying for: in as much detail as possible, describe what you plan to do – and how – during your two years of fieldwork in three different cities. We are looking for creative and resourceful candidates with an ability to clearly articulate and follow through on feasible work plans. Your submission should clearly demonstrate your knowledge of and affinity with the topic and field of research (no more than 1200 words).
You may submit your application no later than 15 September 2018 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please state vacancy number 18-189 in the subject line. #LI-DNP
No agencies please