Publications

Forthcoming
Shuang Frost. Forthcoming. “Platforms as if People Mattered.” Economic Anthropology. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In his 1973 book Small Is Beautiful, economist E. F. Schumacher observed that an ascendant ideology of “bigger is better” industrialism was driving humans to become the servants of machines. “If technology is felt to be becoming more and more inhuman,” he reflected, “we might do well to consider whether it is possible to have something better—a technology with a human face.” Taking up Schumacher's call, this article considers the possibility of “small” digital platforms in the context of China's contemporary ride‐hailing industry. Through an ethnographic study of V Taxi, a grassroots community of taxi drivers, it explores how a human‐centric platform for transportation services emerged, developed, and survived in a rapidly shifting economic and political landscape. The beauty and resilience of this platform lie in its ability to harness local social networks, enabling individual actors to share economic opportunities, skills, and knowledge. Through these practices of sharing, V Taxi members produce relational value, which strengthens community bonds. Drawing upon analytic frameworks from economic anthropology in conjunction with insights from science and technology studies, this article argues that “small” digital platforms can empower economic actors by enabling the production of relational value, thus protecting human agency and expanding human capabilities.

  1. his 1973 book Small is Beautiful, economist E.F. Schumacher observed that an ascendant ideology of “bigger is better” industrialism was driving humans to become the servants of machines. “If technology is felt to be becoming more and more inhuman,” he reflected, “we might do well to consider whether it is possible to have something better— a technology with a human face.” Taking up Schumacher’s call, this article considers the possibility of “small” digital platforms in the context of China’s contemporary ride-hailing industry. Through an ethnographic study of “V Taxi,” a grassroots community of taxi drivers, the article explores how a human-centric platform for transportation services emerged, developed, and survived in a rapidly shifting economic and political landscape. The beauty and resilience of the platform lie in its ability to harness local social networks, enabling individual actors to share economic opportunities, skills, and knowledge. Through these practices of sharing, V Taxi members produce relational value, which strengthens community bonds. Drawing upon analytic frameworks from economic anthropology in conjunction with insights from science and technology studies, the article argues that “small” digital platforms can empower economic actors by enabling the production of relational value, thus protecting human agency and expanding human capabilities in this digital age.
See the working paper in the attached document:
2017
Shuang L. Frost. 8/3/2017. “ Devaluing Human Labor.” Anthropology News; Society of East Asian Association. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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The rise in economic inequality associated with technological displacement is one of the defining issues of our time. Last year the White House reported that recent advances in AI will result in the obsolescence of millions of low and medium-skill jobs and the depression of wages for ordinary workers. This prediction echoes an emerging consensus in social scientific literature: that the trend of widening inequality will only accelerate as more firms move to achieve cost advantages by replacing labor with capital. To glimpse a future of dire technological inequality, one need look no further than the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the wealthiest regions of America with the highest rates of eviction and homelessness. As Russel Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, recently explained in an interview with MIT Technology Review, “When we used to have booms in the tech sector, it would lift all boats. That not how it works anymore.”

2016
William C. Kirby, Yuanzhuo Wang, Shuang L. Frost, and Adam K. Frost. 11/30/2016. “Uber in China: Driving in the Gray Zone (B)” Harvard Business Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 

For two years since 2014 Uber had fought an intense, costly battle for China's ridesharing market with well-financed and well-connected domestic Chinese competitors. During this time, Uber also had to respond to an ever-shifting regulatory landscape that looked increasingly bleak in 2016. Then on August 1, 2016 Uber CEO Travis Kalanick shocked the global ridesharing industry by selling the company's China operations to arch rival Didi Chuxing. Given the competition from domestic rivals and the uncertainties of government regulation, was the decision to exit China the right one for Uber? What does this latest reconfiguration of the market mean for China's burgeoning ridesharing industry? What lessons could other tech companies learn from Uber's experiences in China?

 

 

Shuang L. Frost. 8/9/2016. “ 滴滴优步合并背后:资本如何绑架科技,出卖年轻人的梦想?.” The Paper. Publisher's Version
William C. Kirby, Joycelyn W. Eby, Shuang L. Frost, and Adam K. Frost. 1/5/2016. “Uber in China: Driving in the Gray Zone” Harvard Business Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

CEO and Founder of Uber Technologies, Travis Kalanick, had made clear to investors and the public that expansion into China was one of his company's major priorities for 2016. Uber had already demonstrated remarkable capacity for rapid, global scaling, and for operating despite its unclear legal status in many markets. But the China market, while offering Uber unprecedented opportunity in terms of customer demand, presented Uber with a host of new challenges, including a murky regulatory framework and a strong, native incumbent, Didi-Kuaidi, that boasted the lion's share of the ride-hailing market. Could Uber overcome these obstacles and thrive in the China market?