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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/approachThis 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.FindingsResults 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/implicationsThe paper mainly covers the digital workers’ perspective and the case of Uber’s market entry in Paris.Social implicationsThis 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/valueThe 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”.
critical perspectives on international business – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 21, 2019
Keywords: Trust; International business; Digital platforms; Sharing economy; Uber; Digital work; F23
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