Hybrid advocacy in the digital economy


The project examines the conditions of emergence and success of hybrid forms of advocacy in the digital economy. The starting point is the further differentiated digital platform economy and the associated change in work and employment, which has a massive impact on the crowdworkers* working in this new segment as well as on national structures of employment regulation. Crowdwork is generally a precarious form of employment in which workers do not earn sufficient income or access rights to social security systems. The market power of large platform companies that are able to use this market power on unregulated platforms at the expense of the service providers* is generally considered to be the cause in the literature. The need for protection of the subjects working here has so far hardly been addressed by state and federated approaches. On the one hand, crowdworkers* are usually solo self-employed; labour law provisions that fulfil important protective functions in dependent employment therefore hardly apply in this segment. On the other hand, the collective organization is socially but also legally difficult; because the classical conditions for the emergence of solidarity and collective representation of interests - like a company organization, the belonging to a profession as well as shared experiences of grievances in work are missing in this sphere. The establishment of a trade union is not possible for self-employed persons, the formation of associations under cartel or. Competition law aspects difficult.


Nevertheless, in recent years, various forms of collective counter-movements and interest groups have emerged. These include the establishment of works councils in courier services or the expansion of trade union (advisory) offers for platform work. There are also completely new practices of interest perception, some of which are based on platforms and constitute themselves beyond the established institutions of the German dual system of interest representation (e.g., Internet forums or technical plug-ins). Although some analyses of such initiatives are already available, little is known about the conditions and chances of success of collective advocacy in the platform economy. This concerns in particular the interaction between trade unions and new forms of advocacy.

In view of this, in a first research step, the conditions of creation and success of the FairTube"-Campaign launched in 2019 by the YouTubers Union and IG Metall to improve the employment conditions of video producers* on the YouTube platform. With the help of a mixed methods design (discourse network analysis of media, expert* interviews), the question of the interplay between established and new actors of advocacy in the digital platform economy is examined. The study shows that the campaign not only combines practices of advocacy from different domains (trade unions, social movements), but also forms lasting structures of meaning and (power) resources. We refer to this as a hybrid form of representation of interests, which at least temporarily succeeds in dealing with specific challenges of the platform economy (unequal distribution of power, arbitrariness, lack of participation, non-transparency).


Lectures and Publications

  • Hertwig, M., and Witzak, P., (10/2020): Hybrid advocacy in the field of platform work: The YouTubersUnion and the FairTube campaign. Annual Conference GIRA 2020, Heidelberg University.

Project team:
Prof. Dr. Markus Hertwig
Patrick Witzak M.A.