China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Resisting the Ride-hailing Platform: Drivers’ Tactics and Struggles

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Maple, Lower Ground Floor

This paper examines how ride-hailing apps (e.g. Didi Chuxing) have become an emergent site of labor-management conflict and resistance. Based on qualitative data from interviews, participant observation, and social media content analysis, I show that drivers’ repertoire of labor struggles and resistance tactics are intertwined with the process of “learning to labor” on the digital platforms. Specifically, becoming platform workers hinges on co-producing and sharing vernacular knowledge. This includes the to know-how to set up a ride-hailing personal account and searching continuously for the latest news about cash incentives and rewards offered by competing apps. Drivers rely on individual digital literacy and collective wisdom from their social networks to produce local knowledge essential to earning a living by providing autonomous ride-haling services. At the same time, the digitally mediated workplace — the ride-hailing platform — governs the flow of labor and money through algorithms. In my research, I find that the drivers organize themselves from within and without the ride-hailing platform, ranging from installing cheating software to mobilizing protests and demonstrations. The wide range of drivers’ resistant behaviors and organized actions challenge the platform-defined labor process. It also prompts scholars to reconceptualize and broaden the scope of labor struggles when work is increasingly performed through digital platforms. Are drivers successful in protecting their income and autonomy? The paper concludes with my reflections on the meaning of digital labor activism in the contemporary world of work.  

Yujie Chen

The University of Leicester, United Kingdom


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2 - Resisting the Ride-hailing Platform: Drivers’ Tactics and Struggles

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