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Title: Digital Utility: Datafication, Regulation, Labor, and DiDi’s Platformization of Urban Transport in China
Authors: Chen, Julie Yujie
Qiu, Jack Linchuan
First Published: 28-May-2019
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge) for Communication Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Citation: Chinese Journal of Communication, 2019
Abstract: This article develops the critical concept of digital utility through studying the case of DiDi Chuxing and the platformization of transport services in urban China. By examining DiDi’s business model, its datafication strategies, its relations with the Chinese government, and its labor management systems, the article demonstrates how the platformization of transport is emblematic of a private company becoming a digital utility provider. With technological imagination and practical inconsistency, this process remediates service delivery while reworking infrastructures and redefining the access to public and private services. We argue that platform companies are able to become digital utility suppliers because of their capacity to straddle the public and the private sectors, their aspiration to become “ecosystem builders,” and their heavy reliance on the constant intensive labor of users, particularly drivers, to produce data. However, these factors also make instability a definitive feature of digital utility companies in their present condition. Morphing into the terrain of utilities is a common undertaking by DiDi and similar platform companies. To problematize the logics of digital utility, especially its labor intensive datafication processes and its complex relations with regulators, provides a conceptual anchor for further debates on the infrastructuralization of platforms and the platformization of society.
DOI Link: 10.1080/17544750.2019.1614964
ISSN: 1754-4750
Embargo on file until: 28-Nov-2020
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © 2019, Taylor & Francis (Routledge) for Communication Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Deposited with reference to the publisher’s open access archiving policy. (
Description: The file associated with this record is under embargo until 18 months after publication, in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy. The full text may be available through the publisher links provided above.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Media and Communication

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