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The technology of yield

Uberland. How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work

Uber's algorithms rewrite the conditions of work, believes technology ethnographer Alex Rosenblat. But the question is whether the app company is not just taking advantage of the existing conditions.

One of my first – and last – experiences with Uber was a late night ride through Mexico City. Suddenly, all of us in the back seat roared into the roof of the car, and the tallest of my friends subsequently had to wear a neck collar for weeks. The driver had overlooked one of the countless road bumps which – combined with unprepared earthquake holes in the roads – force the traffic in this megabyte to alternately speed up and slow down hard.

The driver was apparently completely untrained but was driving a shiny new and shiny white oversized car. Besides "fucking fool" I remember thinking about the driver: "If you can afford such a car, why in heaven's name do you drive Uber?" The answer is probably – I know now, after reading Uberland. How Algorithms are Rewriting the Rules of Work – that he had leased the car from the app company at an overpriced price. Maybe he wasn't even untrained at all, but had been lured by the app's encouraging / welcoming / threatening messages to keep running, even if he was too tired.

With the algorithm as a management tool, Uber has taken the faceless exploiter role to a new level.

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Nina Trige Andersen
Trige Andersen is a freelance journalist and historian.

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