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Uberization in Paris - the issue of trust between a digital platform and digital workers

Journal article
Authors Robert Wentrup
Richard Nakamura
Patrik Ström
Published in Critical Perspectives on International Business
Volume 15
Issue 1
Pages 20-41
ISSN 1742-2043
Publication year 2019
Published at Centre for International Business Studies
Department of Business Administration, Management & Organisation
Pages 20-41
Language en
Keywords Trust, International business, Digital platforms, Sharing economy, Uber, Digital work, uppsala model, internationalization process, qualitative methods, economic-geography, sharing economy, interfirm trust, knowledge, labor, entrepreneurship, opportunities, Business & Economics
Subject categories Business Administration


Purpose Using the lens of Uber's digital workers in Paris, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how the trust-building mechanism is constructed between a digital platform and its digital workers in a foreign market entry. Design/methodology/approach This is a case study based on empirical data from in-depth interviews with 35 Uber drivers. A cross-disciplinary literature framework from mainly international business and internet geography theory and a reflexive qualitative methodology are applied. Findings Results show that the relationship between the digital platform and the digital workers is characterized by mistrust and suffers from decreasing commitment levels soon after market entry. Uber mitigates its mistrust via control and scarce mechanisms. The digital drivers' "illusionary freedom", a state in which they feel they can log on and log off at any time, enables the digital platform to gradually lower its commitment. The authors find that the mistrust does not seem to hamper the digital platform's business performance. Research limitations/ implications - The paper mainly covers the digital workers' perspective and the case of Uber'smarket entry in Paris. Social implications - This paper implies that digitally conveyed control seems to come at the cost of lowered human trust. Given the pace at which digital control systems are permeating society, this could eventually lower the whole societal trust level. Originality/ value - The authors criticize incumbent international business theory for not being sufficiently able to explain a contemporary digital business logic and the authors challenge the general assumption that successful internationalization is built through trust. The authors contribute with the conceptualization of a new technical market entry mode for digital platforms - " digitally controlled proxies".

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