The Dynamics of Virtual Work: the Transformation of Labour in a Digital Global Economy Conference 2014 -Hatfiel 3-5 September

The Dynamics of Virtual Work: the Transformation of Labour in a Digital Global Economy Conference 2014 -Hatfiel 3-5 September

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COST Action IS1202 brings together an international network of leading experts from 31 European Countries with researchers from other parts of the world to develop a multi-faceted approach to understanding these phenomena. This international conference will open up an interactive dialogue between scholars both inside and outside the network.

Day 2. September 4, 2014

Time‐base exchange as a feminized altruistic process? Confronting digital and traditional time banks in Italy and Spain 

Dr Lucía del Moral, COMPOLITICAS‐Taraceas S.Coop. (Spain) 
Dr Ivana Pais, Università Cattolica del Sacro, Milano (Italy)

The origins of timebanking in Europe go back to the early 90’s (Amorevole y Guareschi 1997; Amorevole 1999; Coluccia 2001). However, since 2008, in a context of what has been called a “multidimensional global crisis” (Fernández Durán 2011) or a “policrisis” (Morin 2011), they have experienced a peak. Over the last few years TBs and other practices which integrate what used to be considered as separated spheres of action (work, consumption and participation) are becoming more and more popular.
These emerging forms of interaction in working patterns are characterized by the logic of co‐ production, the reduction of stages of intermediation, peer to peer practices (Benkler 2011, Sennett 2012), the importance of reputation, network organization and the blurring boundaries between working and free time, private and public space, online and offline. In particular, the birth of the prosumer (Toffler 1987) and the practice of produsage (Burns 2008) highlights the collapse of the distinction between work and consumption and between work and participation, opening up possibilities for collaborative networks among volunteers for the creation of immaterial “commons” (Ostrom 1990). There is an increasing number of spaces, mainly digital, where users test products and give information for the design and improvement of those products in a logic of coproduction (often voluntary and unpaid).
What is the role of gender in these issues? Previous research confirms the overwhelming role that women play in these kind of initiatives, especially in time banks (Boyle, 2013) while they seem to be underrepresented in other for example coworking spaces (Deskmag, 2013). Some initiatives, such as barter networks or social currencies, have been seen as possible women empowerment tools (Pereyra 2007; Walker 2012) and TBs as a tool to foster work‐life balance (Torns, 2001, Gisbert 2010). In addition to this, they, theoretically, break up with some of the founding dichotomies of the still hegemonic androcentric economic perspectives (public/private, work/non‐work, paid/unpaid) (Nelson 1995).
In this picture a crucial role is played by the evolution in communication technology over the last ten years and the availability of digital channels. Internet and digital communication allow the diffusion of “personalized networking” (Wellman 2001) and of network sociality as the dominant pattern of social relation: individuals have wider networking possibilities and they can easily build “ad hoc” communities around their identity, or interests and life styles. Meanwhile, they implement forms of horizontal communication many‐to‐many, facilitating the creation of networked communities (Castells 2007) or networked collectivism (Baym 2010)
These processes have opened new horizons for timebanking. Not only global digital TBs have been created but also traditional TBs have integrated digital technologies in their organizational schema. This brings opportunities and challenges in relation to at least two relevant issues in TB: gender parity and reciprocity. Previous literature on timebanking has revealed, on the one hand, the over‐representation of women in timebanking. On the other, that while TB managers tend to emphasize timebanking’s dimension of utilitarian exchanges and reciprocity; TB users tend to understand timebanking as a space for giving in an altruistic way.
This paper emerges from a transnational case study research involving 6 different TBs. The selection of the cases intended to cover the whole spectrum of successful TB from the pure off‐line to the pure on‐line, the mixed and hybridized TBs. The Spanish TBs are: Ecolocal TB; Malaga TB, and Communitats. The Italian TBs are Milano TB, BdT Modena and Timerepublik. The study is based on a mixed method approach including in depth interviews with TB managers and TB members, a questionnaire for the members and participant observation both online and offline (member meetings, online forums…). In addition to that, several interviews with experts have been conducted.
The main objective of this research is to confront on‐line and off‐line TB. Specifically, we analyze whether their members’ profile, their expressed purpose, the kind of services, the nature of the exchange (reciprocity‐altruism) show different patterns in on‐line and off‐line TB. The main hypothesis of the paper is that online TB tend to balance the over representation of women in TBs and to promote reciprocity vs altruism

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