ECIS 2020 Research Papers

Abstract

Spatiotemporality has never been so prominent in the gig economy, where the mantra is to harness individual persons’ “spare time” across large geographical areas to create economic value with scale. The time-sensitive nature of food delivery service and the spatial distribution of a large number of riders require intensive algorithmic coordination and control. In this paper, we report findings from a qualitative study conducted in Beijing with food-delivery platform workers and managers. By taking a critical, sociomaterial perspective, the study shows how the riders, mostly rural migrant workers, are tethered to and simultaneously co-construct multiple spatiotemporalities in their daily work to meet the demand of speed and efficiency defined by platform algorithms. We further argue that the algorithms are not creating so-called ‘atomized’ workers in the gig economy, but interconnected and co-dependent collective agencies in space and time.

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