Expanding the Locus of Resistance: Understanding the Co-constitution of Control and Resistance in the Gig Economy

Lindsey D. Cameron*, Hatim Rahman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Existing literature examines control and resistance in the context of service organizations that rely on both managers and customers to control workers during the execution of work. Digital platform companies, however, eschew managers in favor of algorithmically mediated customer control-that is, customers rate workers, and algorithms tally and track these ratings to control workers' future platform-based opportunities. How has this shift in the distribution of control among platforms, customers, and workers affected the relationship between control and resistance? Drawing on workers' experiences from a comparative ethnography of two of the largest platform companies, we find that platform use of algorithmically mediated customer control has expanded the service encounter such that organizational control and workers' resistance extend well beyond the execution of work. We find that workers have the most latitude to deploy resistance early in the labor process but must adjust their resistance tactics because their ability to resist decreases in each subsequent stage of the labor process. Our paper, thus, develops understanding of resistance by examining the relationship between control and resistance before, during, and after a task, providing insight into how control and resistance function in the gig economy. We also demonstrate the limitations of platforms' reliance on algorithmically mediated customer control by illuminating how workers' everyday interactions with customers can influence and manipulate algorithms in ways that platforms cannot always observe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-58
Number of pages21
JournalOrganization Science
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Algorithms
  • Control resistance
  • Gig economy
  • Labor process theory
  • Lyft
  • Service work
  • Uber

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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