Words Matter: How Tech Media Helped Write Gig Companies into Existence

20 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2020

Date Written: August 7, 2020

Abstract

When companies like Uber and TaskRabbit appeared in Silicon Valley, there was a collective media swoon over these new app-based service-delivery corporations and their products. Pundits and journalists made it seem like these companies were ushering in not only an inevitable future, but a desirable one. Their content helped convince the public and regulators that these businesses were different from existing corporations—that they were startups with innovative technology platforms designed to disrupt established firms by efficiently connecting consumers to independent, empowered gig workers. Those in the media normalized and at times generated this rhetoric and framing, which was then taken up by politicians, amplified by academics, and finally enshrined in laws that legalized the business models of these companies. The positive, uncritical coverage prevailed for years and helped pave the way for a handful of companies that represent a tiny fraction of the economy to have an outsized impact on law, mainstream corporate practices, and the way we think about work. The force that powered the swoon was a relatively new and journalistically problematic trend in media: “tech” reporting.

Keywords: Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, TaskRabbit, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Tech Media, Sharing Economy, Rideshare, Gig Economy, Journalism

Suggested Citation

Harnett, Sam, Words Matter: How Tech Media Helped Write Gig Companies into Existence (August 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3668606 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3668606

Sam Harnett (Contact Author)

KQED ( email )

50 Beale Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

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