The politics of platform power in surveillance capitalism: A comparative case study of ride-hailing platforms in China and the United States

Ngai Keung CHAN, Chi KWOK*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article uses a comparative case study of two ride-hailing platforms—DiDi Chuxing in China and Uber in the United States—to explore the comparative politics of platform power in surveillance capitalism. Surveillance capitalism is an emerging economic system that translates human experiences into surveillance assets for behavioral predictions and modifications. Through this comparative study, we demonstrate how DiDi and Uber articulate their operational legitimacy for advancing their corporate interests and visions of datafication in the face of legal uncertainty. Although DiDi and Uber are both “sectoral platforms” in urban mobility with similar visions of datafication and infrastructuralization, we highlight that they deploy different discursive legitimation strategies. Our study shows that Uber adopts a “confrontational” strategy, while DiDi employs a “collaborative” strategy when they need to legitimize their data and business practices to the public and regulatory authorities. This study offers a comparative lens to examine the social and political dynamics of platform firms based in China and the United States and, therefore, contributes to understanding the various aspirational logic of platform thinking in different political contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number205943642110467
JournalGlobal Media and China
Early online date26 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

Keywords

  • Datafication
  • DiDi
  • Uber
  • platformization
  • surveillance capitalism

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