The Institute for Research on Digital Literacies
The Institute for Research on Digital Literacies

Digital Worker Inquiry: Worker Data Science in the Gig Economy

December 2, 2021 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

This talk is drawn from an article co-written with Cailean Gallager (STUC) and Dr. Wenlong Li (University of Birmingham) entitled “Conceptualising Worker Data Science: Building Leverage in the Gig Economy”, which reviews recent debates about the nature of control and worker leverage in the gig economy, explores the possibilities and limitations of ongoing legal, technological, and design interventions, and introduces the concepts of worker observatories and worker data science. We argue that as new digital technologies continue to enable new systems of data-driven management and control, both legal and technological avenues to building leverage in the gig economy remain limited to the extent that they foreclose 1.) worker inquiry 2.) collectivisation of worker data rights 3.) the development of robust digital skills among workers themselves. Here we suggest that that concept of worker data science be developed as an organised and purposive form of citizen science, fundamentally returning agency to workers to study, intervene in, and modify platform working conditions.

Karen Gregory is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, where she directs the MSc in Digital Sociology. Her research explores the nature of work in the platform economy and her writing has been published in Work, Employment and Society, American Behavioral Scientist, and Information, Communication & Society, among other journals. She is the co-editor of Digital Sociologies (Policy Press 2016) and an Associate Editor at the Journal of Cultural Economy.

Opening Comments by Danielle Rudnicka-Lavoie, PhD student, The York/X University Joint Graduate Program in Communication and Culture ComCult.

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