Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s Drivers

International Journal Of Communication, 10, 27.

27 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2015 Last revised: 14 Nov 2016

Alex Rosenblat

Data & Society Research Institute

Luke Stark

New York University (NYU)

Date Written: July 30, 2016

Abstract

Uber manages a large, disaggregated workforce through its ridehail platform, one that delivers a relatively standardized experience to passengers while simultaneously promoting its drivers as entrepreneurs whose work is characterized by freedom, flexibility, and independence. Through a nine-month empirical study of Uber driver experiences, we found that Uber does leverage significant indirect control over how drivers do their jobs. Our conclusions are twofold: First, the information and power asymmetries produced by the Uber application are fundamental to its ability to structure control over its workers; second, the rhetorical invocations of digital technology and algorithms are used to structure asymmetric corporate relationships to labor, which favor the former. Our study of the Uber driver experience points to the need for greater attention to the role of platform disintermediation in shaping power relations and communications between employers and workers.

Keywords: digital labor, on-demand economy, Uber, interaction design, flexible employment, ridesharing, algorithm, data, middle manager, rating, surge pricing, entrepreneurship, algorithm, predictive scheduling, sharing economy, workplace surveillance

Suggested Citation

Rosenblat, Alex and Stark, Luke, Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s Drivers (July 30, 2016). International Journal Of Communication, 10, 27. . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2686227 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2686227

Alex Rosenblat (Contact Author)

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
New York,, NY
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.datasociety.net

Luke Stark

New York University (NYU) ( email )

Bobst Library, E-resource Acquisitions
20 Cooper Square 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10003-711
United States

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