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The power implications of the shift to customer reviews: A field perspective on jobbing platforms operating in France

Barbe, A. S., Gond, J-P. ORCID: 0000-0002-9331-6957 & Hussler, C. (2022). The power implications of the shift to customer reviews: A field perspective on jobbing platforms operating in France. Organization Studies,

Abstract

Customers reviews are a new type of third-party evaluation that transformed how power operates over evaluated producers, and in so doing attracted scholarly attention. However, this literature rarely addresses the power relationships operating between platforms collecting and aggregating these reviews. We address this blind spot by relying on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of fields, which we use to highlight that the reaction of producers to traditional third-party evaluations depend on, and reproduce, the domination of an evaluation intermediary over its competitors. Our qualitative study of the field of jobbing platforms in France reveals that producers react to customer reviews only on platforms accumulating relatively better stocks of reviews, in a self-reinforcing manner. Managers of platforms with smaller stocks of reviews resist by sheltering jobbers from reviews. Our study re-introduces field-level power dynamics between platforms to research exploring the forms of power that operate on producers subjected to reviews. It adds to studies of evaluation intermediaries by specifying that the accumulation of reviews underpins the power relationships between intermediaries in the customer review era and by identifying sheltering as a new form of resistance. Finally, it updates Bourdieu’s theory to the digital age by explaining that individuals’ accumulation of capital online relates to inter-organisational power dynamics.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted manuscript of an article accepted for publication in Organization Studies by SAGE. Restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses.
Publisher Keywords: online platforms, algorithms, data, field, domination, resistance, power, reviews, evaluation, gig economy; reactivity.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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