Accepted paper:

Virtual Production Networks: Fixing Commodification and Disembeddedness

Authors:

Alex Wood (University of Oxford)
Isis Amelie Hjorth (University of Oxford)
Mark Graham (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Online outsourcing platforms organize, commodify and disembed labor in an extreme and distinctive manner. Although virtual production is disembedded they are not immaterial or ethereal. We argue spatio-temporal fixes provide a useful alternative to the existing GPN use of embeddedness.

Paper long abstract:

This paper highlights the strengths and benefits of the Global Production Network (GPN) approach. However, it also raises a concern that the manner in which embeddedness has been utilized within this paradigm is possibly ill-suited to arenas of virtual production in which commodification is heightened. In fact, to fully account for the uniqueness of virtual production we demonstrate that the GPN model requires significant extension and reformulation. This is the aim of this paper and in doing so we develop a new model of 'Virtual Production Networks' (VPNs). At the core of our VPN model is an original account of the distinctive manner in which online outsourcing platforms organize, commodify and disembed labor. Drawing upon detailed empirical research we conceptually map VPNs providing an original typology and highlighting the ways in which online outsourcing platforms are engineered and framed in an effort to disembed labor from the laws, institutions and norms. Although VPNs are disembedded they are not immaterial or operating in some kind of ethereal alternative dimension. Spatio-temporal fixes provide an alternative to the existing GPN use of embeddedness. We elucidate the manner in which disembedded - i.e. highly commodified - virtual production is fixed within regional, nation and local social networks. In fact, these spatio-temporal fixes enable the overcoming of a number of contradictions created by commodification. We conclude by considering the implications this has for social upgrading.

panel P61
Global production networks and the politics and policies of development