THE EXPERIMENTAL HAND: HOW PLATFORM-BASED EXPERIMENTATION RECONFIGURES WORKER AUTONOMY

Hatim A. Rahman, Tim Weiss, Arvind Karunakaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examine how and when platform-based experimentation influences worker autonomy, especially in contexts where workers do not have access to the same relational opportunities that workers in conventional bureaucratic organizations have traditionally relied on to preserve their autonomy. By analyzing longitudinal qualitative data fromone of the world's largest digital labor platforms, we found that the platform implemented three experimentation regimes-explicit, concealed, and unbounded-that reconfigured workers' autonomy in unexpected ways. We theorize the introduction of and successive changes in platform-based experimentation as constitutive of the "experimental hand." Our model of the experimental hand captures how successive changes in platform-based experimentation regimes reconfigure workers' degree of autonomy: workers first experienced increased autonomy, followed by diminished autonomy, and finally workers normalized their diminished autonomy as a "business as usual" aspect of work life on the platform. Whereas prior research has primarily examined the design and efficacy of experiments from the perspective of organizations, our study builds new theory on the social effects of experimentation, capturing the implications faced by workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1803-1830
Number of pages28
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Volume66
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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