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The increasing pervasiveness of digital platforms is having a tremendous impact upon cities, which researchers have only begun to explore. Short-term rentals platforms such as Airbnb are at the centre of the debate, if only because of the very visible effects they produce in the most affected neighbourhoods and in terms of housing availability and affordability. Beyond Airbnb, a plethora of digital platforms ubiquitously mediate our relationship with space, whether we use them for tourism, shopping, work, mobility, content sharing, social interaction. The project brings together a transdisciplinary team to explore the differential effects platform capitalism has on places, at different scales, focusing predominantly on Italian cities: the new logics, practices and imaginaries conveyed by online platforms, how those reproduce or alter socio-spatial inequalities, how cities, platform users and inhabitants react to and seek to challenge “Airbnbification” and the new geographies produced through and by the digital. We conduct quantitative meso-analyses, critical mapping and in-depth case studies within a general conceptual framework dealing with, on the one hand, the political economy of digital platforms and, on the other, cultural and critical enquiries of internet-mediated imaginaries and identities.

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Our research investigates the urban changes induced by digital platforms along several related dimensions.

The first is that of the (new) urban imaginaries conveyed by platforms and how those impacts upon identities and places. We conduct content and visual analyses of how digital intermediaries represent places (cities, neighbourhoods, homes, landscapes), materialize different urban visions, what are the implications, and how platform users and cities adapt and react [WP1 Identities and Imaginaries].
Second, we investigate the patterns of “Airbnbification” and how Airbnb and other tourism platforms exacerbate existing spatial hierarchies and inequalities, focusing both on the inner city and on more marginal places, particularly in light of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic [WP2 Socio-spatial (In)Justice].
Moreover, we explore wider urban changes induced and exacerbated by other digital platforms, in the domains of tourism, e-commerce, food delivery, “smart cities”, and the changing sociospatial stratification of cities during and after the coronavirus emergency [WP3 Urban Transformations].
Finally, we focus on public debates, policy agendas and societal struggles about and around the impact of these new digital geographies on (Italian) cities, in order to highlight potential alternatives, suggest policy recommendations and contribute to the ongoing discussion about how to cope with platform capitalism [WP4 Alternatives].

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