Gigging in the sharing economy

Andrea Geissingera, Christofer Laurellb Christina Öbergc* & Christian Sandströmd

Örebro University School of Business and The Ratio Institute, P.O. Box 3203, SE-103 64, Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm School of Economics Institute for Research and Jönköping International Business School
Box 6501, SE-113 83, Stockholm, Sweden

The Ratio Institute
P.O. Box 3203, SE-103 64, Stockholm, Sweden
*Corresponding author

Chalmers University of Technology, The Ratio Institute and Jönköping International Business School
Vera Sandbergs Allé 8B, SE-412 96 Göteborg, Sweden
E-mail address:

Abstract submitted to the Reshaping Work 2018 conference
Domain: Business and Economics


Gigs define temporary works performed by individuals in various settings (Bogenhold, Klinglmair, & Kandutsch, 2017; Healy, Nicholson, & Pekarek, 2017; Horney, 2016; Lehdonvirta, 2018). Coined in the 1920s, its long tradition relates to music and art performers and their acting on stage. It represents some sort of temporality, meaning that the exact same task may not appear again, at least not in the same surrounding. Recent trends in business life have redefined work (cf. Öberg, 2012), have brought forth such concepts as freelance and gig economies to portray individuals as self-employed and the mentioned temporality of task (Gandini, 2016; Janofsky, 2015).

At the rise of the sharing economy, that is, peer-to-peer based exchanges accomplished by digital platforms (e.g., Belk, 2014), the providing parties’ operations could well be seen as gigs intermediated online, but facilitated offline in temporary exchanges with users. The development of the sharing economy includes an increased plurality in ways to operate though (Mair & Reischauer, 2017), not the least underlined by how the peer-to-peer exchanges have sometimes turned into ways to earn living by the providing parties. This paper sets to investigate this phenomenon by particularly focusing on how various stakeholders – internal and external actors with direct or indirect influence or participation in the exchanges (cf. Freeman, 1984) – comprehend this development. The purpose of the paper is to categorize various stakeholders’ viewpoints and their influence on the understanding of gigs in the sharing economy.

Empirically, the paper departs from two social-media data sets: one describing Uber, the other one Foodora, as two examples of sharing economy platforms. The data sets comprises more than 30,000 social media posts. The paper analyses how the providing side of these platforms is reported on in social media also taking into account who (type of stakeholder) posts about them. Preliminary findings indicate how the providing side, albeit both studied platforms would be characterized as highly commercialized, demonstrate quite different results related to those work conditions actually at hand. While this being the case, the data reveals a shared pattern of negative connotation across stakeholder groups, with them influencing one another across the social media. The negative descriptions do, as opposed to learnings from traditional stakeholder theory, indicate expressions well beyond stakes and influences by the particular stakeholder group: a user may well engage in talks about legal regulations, for instance, while it would had been expected to mostly engage with services provided, payments, and deliveries.

The paper contributes to previous research in several ways: Firstly, the sharing economy literature is still mainly focused on the user side of sharing, meaning that this paper fills an empirical hole in its perspective. Secondly, the methodological approach taken allows for a broad, but also integrated capturing of individual stakeholders’ understanding of the phenomenon. Hence, it includes both the definition of various stakeholder groups and how they may influence one another. Thirdly, and as the theoretical contribution, the paper provides understanding for stakeholders, their influence and participation in digital settings, and particularly how influences and viewpoints of stakeholders become separated from their participation.

Keywords: Digital work, Foodora, Freelance economy, Gig economy, Sharing economy, Stakeholder, Uber


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