Society for the Anthropology of Work
General Anthropology Division
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Digital platforms are changing the way we work and live. Previous studies on the digitally-mediated service work seem to be trapped in the technological determinism by either celebrating the encompassing algorithmic power or emphasizing the exploitative nature of platform work due to the “Information Asymmetries” with the intensification of the managerial control and emotional labor within the labor process.
Based on the ethnographic research on the food delivery workers in digital platforms in Hong Kong, my study scrutinizes the relationship between digital platforms with their invisible infrastructure and the modern service labor by discerning the following aspects: the nature of work itself; a worker’s relationship to/investment in the work; the platform/app design and the management of the labor process and the social location of the worker. Food delivery as work is fungible and interchangeable, however, it is getting higher exposure and visibility in the space of modern cities. Time and temporality are also relevant since the measure of time and capital invested affects the dependency of the worker. The development of algorithmic technology is not genetic but always affected by the social structure and the negotiation of private companies and the state. The social embodiment of gender, race, and class influences the agency of platform laborers.
This paper addresses an intersectional approach that would formulate ideas for scholars and labor organizers who are struggling with the mobilization of gig workers.
With a techno-social analysis, platform labor provides contested spaces where digital labor politics penetrate.