March 15, 2018
Please note: This event is for invited researchers only.
How to Make out While Driving: Control, Coordination, and its Consequences in the Algorithmic Work Process
Uber. TaskRabbit. Postmates. Over the past five years the on-demand economy, a new labor market characterized by short-term employment contracts facilitated by web platforms and matching algorithms, has skyrocketed. However organizational theory, which were largely developed in the rise of bureaucratic organizations, has not kept pace raising questions about the robustness of key theories of control and autonomy.
How is work managed in the absence of traditional organizational and managerial structures? And how do workers navigate this new work process? This study, the first of its kind in management, explores these questions, drawing in a two and a half year inductive field study of the ride-hailing industry, the largest sector within the on-demand economy. Specifically, by exploring the lived work experiences – i.e., how workers accomplish their tasks in an decentralized work environment – Cameron explores how the work process is navigated in the absence of traditional bureaucratic structures.
She argues that work process is sustained by a tri-party relationship with workers, algorithms, and customers with workers choosing either, themselves, the algorithm, or the customer to serve as managers at different stages of the work process. This shifting work control alliance allows for organizational control to become more invisible yet heavily embedded and pervasive in shaping workers’ behaviors. In conclusion, this project, by closely examining the intersection of control and autonomy within an emerging post-bureaucratic organizational form sheds new light on how organizational control is maintained and how the work process is navigated in the absence of traditional management structures and has implications for theories in work and occupations, service work, algorithmic labor, and employment relations.
Lindsey Cameron is an ethnographer who studies work, workers, and organizing in post-bureaucratic organizations with a focus on issues of equity and inclusion. Her dissertation, a two year ethnography of the ride-hailing industry and includes participant-observation as a driver, examines how low-wage workers navigate issues of control and autonomy when having an algorithm as a supervisor. She has also conducted field work in Detroit and mindfulness interventions for service workers. Lindsey is a PhD candidate at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and currently a fellow at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.