[Online Forum] Covid-19, Inequalities, and Platform Labor

[TSTSA Contemporary European STS Online Forum]

Covid-19, Inequalities, and Platform Labor

Digital labor platforms such as Uber, Deliveroo, Upwork and Amazon Mechanical Turk provide earning opportunities by outsourcing on-demand gigs and tasks. There is consensus that they reinforce existing inequalities and generate new vulnerabilities by generalizing low-paid and contingent work. As “gigs” (like urban transportation and delivery) are mainly location-based and “tasks” (ranging from translation to data entry) can be performed entirely online, one might expect that the Covid-19 outbreak would disrupt the former and boost the latter, especially in countries under lockdown. However, the differential impact of the global health crisis follows more complex dividing lines that combine legacy social privileges and platform-induced precarization. Remote work is mostly available to middle and upper classes, but exposes them to redundancy in a context of reduced production, while lower-class “last mile workers” are forced into out-of-home activities, ironically essential and disposable at the same time.

Time: May 20, 2020 7:30-9:00 pm (GMT+8)

Speaker: Paola Tubaro

Paola Tubaro is an economic sociologist, interested in social networks and their role in the coordination of economic action in markets, organisations, and internet platforms. Until December 2015, she was Reader at the University of Greenwich.Since January 2016, she has been employed as a research scientist (about the equivalent of a tenured associate professor, but with research rather than teaching focus) at CNRS, working at Laboratoire de Recherche en Informatique (LRI) on the Saclay campus just south of Paris. This is a major computer science centre and her mission is to build bridges with the social sciences to develop research around big data, the digital economy, and artificial intelligence. She is a member of the Associate Boards of the journals Sociology and Revue Française de Sociologie. She co-convenes the Social Networks Analysis Group of British Sociological Association (BSA-SNAG). She is also a member of the Board of the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris-Saclay. More about Paola Tubaro: https://cv.archives-ouvertes.fr/paola-tubaro

Related paper by the speaker: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2053951720919776

Organizer: Taiwan STS Association

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[Online Forum] Covid-19, Inequalities, and Platform Labor