SCIENTIA GEOGRAPHICA SINICA ›› 2023, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (8): 1371-1381.doi: 10.13249/j.cnki.sgs.2023.08.006

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Platform urbanism and the sociocultural patterns of platform-mediated daily mobilities: A case study in Guangzhou

Liu Chen(), Chen Jiayan   

  1. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510006, Guangdong, China
  • Received:2022-04-12 Revised:2022-11-30 Online:2023-08-20 Published:2023-08-30
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42001152);Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou(202102020997)


Since digital platforms play an increasingly important role in urban governance/management and experiences, in the past two decades, human geographers have paid active attention to how geographical knowledge is produced by the digital in the mundane and how the digital is mediating the production of space and transforming the relations between human and space. Resonating with this trend, this research explores the sociocultural patterns of daily mobilities with the assistance of digital platforms based on the concept of platform urbanism, aimed to reveal the interactions between digital subjects, platforms, and urban space during this process. The analysis in this article is based on a fieldwork in urban Guangzhou consisting of questionnaire survey, semi-structured interviews, and participant observations. The main results of this fieldwork not only provide a general portrait of digital platform use in daily travel, such as the types of platforms applied in practice and their corresponding usage frequency, but also is beneficial to better understand how digital platforms are integrated into daily mobilities in an unconscious, contingent, creative and momentary way through details like gestures, habits, emotional experience presented in the combined data. Generally, the key findings of this article have demonstrated that digital platforms have already gained broad use in daily mobilities in Guangzhou. Nevertheless, specific details about how people make use of digital platforms while planning or managing daily mobilities still vary from the demographic patterns, especially among those groups with different ages and different degrees of education. Simultaneously, the diversity and the complexity of the daily mobilities associated with digital platforms can also be attributed to the social-spatial contexts of the practice, which have an important influence on shaping different types of platform-mediated mobilities, including purposive mobilities, contingent mobilities, flexible mobilities, and the way they interweave during the process of daily mobilities. Ultimately, this article argues that daily travel is a social and digital practice that forges multiplex interactions between people, digital platforms, and urban space through two patterns: "guide" and "adaption". In the former, the use of digital platforms can guide the way in which daily mobilities are conducted by strengthening or weakening people's (digital) skills, such as collecting information, making travel plans, telling directions, experiencing and producing places. While in the latter, as a result of the highly accidental, incomplete, uncertain interactions between people, platforms, and space, failures emerging from daily mobilities would encourage users to explore their creative and resistant tactics to improve the effects of platform use. Aimed to identify the roles people, digital platforms, and urban space played respectively in mobilities in Guangzhou, this article allows us to witness how platform urbanism contributes to completing the past research on the relations between daily travel and technology, thus offering a significant insight into the further exploration of daily practice mediated by digital platforms and the construction of human-oriented smart cities in the future.

Key words: digital platforms, platform urbanism, daily travel, qualitative geographic information system, Guangzhou

CLC Number: 

  • K928.5