A new institution on the block: Airbnb as community platform and urban policy entrepreneur
CUS Lecture Niels van Doorn
Platforms such as AirBnB do not just offer holiday homes, they have a significant influence on urban policy and might form the basis of new political communities.
During this event, Dr. Niels van Doorn will present a talk titled A new institution on the block: Airbnb as community platform and urban policy entrepreneur.
This talk examines platforms as new institutional forms that are transforming the relations between market, state, and civil society actors in post-welfare societies. Focusing on Airbnb, in particular its Airbnb Citizen initiative and its recently introduced Policy Tool Chest, the paper examines the strategic conflation – inherent to the platform model – of the company and its user base, as Airbnb advances its public policy goals in various metropoles around the globe.
While Airbnb has been known to evade regulation and to litigate municipal governments which aim to restrict its operations, the company has increasingly sought to become a trusted partner in urban policy making. Van Doorn argues that this move reflects a broader transformation of the policy/regulatory landscape over the past two decades, where top-down regulation has been superseded by more experimental, evidence-based forms of policy making and collaborative governance models achieved through public-private partnerships in heterogeneous stakeholder networks. Assuming the more pro-active and agenda-setting role of the urban policy entrepreneur, Airbnb aims to co-shape the terms of current and future policy debates on home sharing and short-term rental by mobilizing its user base, which it frames as a community of entrepreneurial citizens looking to supplement their income in a post-recession climate of economic insecurity.
Through its Airbnb Citizen initiative, the company cultivates so-called Home Sharing Clubs “whose host members share best practices, partner with local organizations on volunteer work, engage with neighborhood businesses, and advocate to local policymakers for fair, clear rules” (Airbnb Citizen). But what is happening here, exactly? Are we seeing the rise of a homegrown, platform-facilitated class politics in which collectivized hosts defend their property rights and middle-class interests? Or should we rather understand this phenomenon as the corporate outsourcing of lobbying operations that defend Airbnb’s interests in urban tourism markets? This talk concludes with a reflection on the political repercussions attendant to this parallax view of Airbnb, which point to an emerging mode of platform urbanism.
About the speaker
Niels van Doorn is Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He is the Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded Platform Labor research project. He holds an MSc and PhD in Communication Science from the University of Amsterdam. Together with Professor Ellen Rutten, he is a founding member of the Digital Emotions research group at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), and is part of the Gender and Labor in New Times International Research Network, led by Professor Lisa Adkins (University of Newcastle, Australia).
His research is guided by two fundamental questions: how do people sustain themselves and each other in precarious circumstances?; and how does the notion of value emerge at the intersection of political and moral economies? He has published widely, in international peer-reviewed journals including New Media & Society, Cultural Politics, Qualitative Inquiry, Cultural Studies, and Environment & Planning D.
To be announced.