Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting The Rules Of Work
by Alex Rosenblat
University of California Press
October 2018, 296 pages
Silicon Valley technology is transforming the way we work, and Uber is leading the charge. An American startup that promised to deliver entrepreneurship for the masses through its technology, Uber instead built a new template for employment using algorithms and Internet platforms. Upending our understanding of work in the digital age, Uberland paints a future where any of us might be managed by a faceless boss.
The neutral language of technology masks the powerful influence algorithms have across the New Economy. Uberland chronicles the stories of drivers in more than twenty-five cities in the United States and Canada over four years, shedding light on their working conditions and providing a window into how they feel behind the wheel. The book also explores Uber’s outsized influence around the world: the billion-dollar company is now influencing everything from debates about sexual harassment and transportation regulations to racial equality campaigns and labor rights initiatives.
Based on award-winning technology ethnographer Alex Rosenblat’s firsthand experience of riding over 5,000 miles with Uber drivers, daily visits to online forums, and face-to-face discussions with senior Uber employees, Uberland goes beyond the headlines to reveal the complicated politics of popular technologies that are manipulating both workers and consumers.
Alex Rosenblat (personal site – Twitter) is a technology ethnographer. A researcher at the Data & Society Research Institute, she holds an MA in sociology from Queen’s University and a BA in history from McGill University. Rosenblat’s writing has appeared in media outlets such as the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, the Atlantic, Slate, and Fast Company. Her research has received attention worldwide and has been covered in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, MIT Technology Review, WIRED, New Scientist, and the Guardian. Many scholarly and professional publications have also published her prizewinning work, including the International Journal of Communication and the Columbia Law Review.
New York Magazine book review
“Drawing on four years of ethnographic research among Uber drivers, Rosenblat has produced a thoroughly dystopian report that details how millions of drivers are now managed by a computerized system that combines the hard authoritarianism of Frederick Winslow Taylor with the cynical cheerleading of Michael Scott.”
Report: Beyond Disruption – How Tech Shapes Labor Across Domestic Work & Ridehailing (pdf)
By Julia Ticona, Alexandra Mateescu, and Alex Rosenblat
26 June 2018
This project examines the promises and practices of labor platforms across the ridehail, care, and cleaning industries in the US. Between Spring and Winter 2017, we conduct-ed over 100 qualitative, semi-structured interviews with ridehail app drivers, in-home child and elder care workers, and housecleaners who use platforms to find work in primarily in New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, and Washing-ton, DC. During this period, we also observed the online communities that these workers have formed to discuss occupational or platform-based issues. Although there is a growing body of research on platform-based work, few ethnographic studies exist, and public understanding of this area is shaped largely by journalistic and corporate-produced narratives about who workers are, what motivates them, and how they understand their work. This study contributes new insights on the operation of labor platforms in different low-wage industries and raises new questions about the role of technology in restructuring work.