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Economy and technology

The subject of study of this chair is economic and social practices that surround the phenomenon of collaborative economy and virtual platform economy.

Sharing economy is an economic practice that consists on sharing goods that are underused so that a third party could make a better use of them. It can vary, although it is mostly used through leasing or renting and free loans. Strictly speaking, second hand goods (marketplace) and crowdworking, along with transport services, deliveries, reparations, pet care, private lessons and such would be excluded from the term sharing economy. Nevertheless, this chair will also analyse both concepts, focusing its research in all that is related to digital platforms and digital transformation.

This diversity in the practice is closely associated with virtual platforms and mobile apps that are used for its development. New technologies of information and communication have become a perfect shuttle for both collaborative economy and other services. It is through these apps that requestors and bidder are put in touch. They are given channels and mechanisms to trade in an efficient and effective manner. Therefore, the market is expanded allowing for multitude people to rent, sell or provide services in a newly way in at the same time as traditional channels of distribution generally stablished by businesspeople and professionals.

It is no doubt that the economy of digital platforms has created new opportunities to ensure economic and environmental sustainability. However, the importance that it has gained in the last decade is it to its capacity to boost job insecurity, political conflict around public regulation in specific economic sectors or social and economic conflicts and its messy and out-of-control expansion. In addition to this, the role played by these platforms has challenged collaborative economy because, even though the parts that intervene can be characterized by profit motive, it is normally found in businesses that are behind IT apps that promote and facilitate said relationships.

With no intention of being exhausting, the following social controversies are paradigmatic: labour disputes arising from home delivery services generally carried out using motorcycles and bicycles in urban environments (typical of platforms such as Deliveroo or Glovo); labour and administrative disputes related to the passenger transport sector (Uber or Cabify); the issues raised by the right to privacy or even the right to career advancement by the online reputation systems used by these platforms; the problems of gentrification and access to housing related to tourist rentals (Airbnb); or the challenges posed to the regulation of mobility by new forms of vehicle rental, motorised or not, in cities (carsharing).

These debates must be faced without losing sight of the diversity of practices that are identified with the economy of Digital platforms and without avoiding the need to clearly differentiate their different aspects and problems.

In this sense, a multitude of platforms can be identified with different purposes and, therefore, with different study needs. From those aimed at sharing and/or renting goods such as cars, workspaces, tourism properties, etc. to those dedicated to offering urban transport services, home delivery or domestic chores, through applications and platforms that offer the possibility of buying and selling second-hand goods.

Of course, the expansion of this social, economic and political phenomenon cannot be understood without paying attention to the rapid expansion and evolution of information and communication technologies that allow efficient channels of interaction and exchange, also facilitating a more pronounced and accelerated commercialization of many facets of life. The purpose of all of this is to be analysed in this Chair.