A silent cultural revolution is reshaping how we will work for generations to come—and it’s being led by Uber. The Silicon Valley start up has become a juggernaut of the sharing economy, promising drivers the opportunity to be entrepreneurs, but managing them with algorithms and treating them like consumers. The billion-dollar, global behemoth upended our expectations about what it means to work in a society mediated by technology.
Technology ethnographer Alex Rosenblat shares her award-winning research on how algorithmic managers shape how drivers behave on the job. With the help of this technology, Uber claims to operate in a world of consumption rather than labor, skirting a series of obligations and laws, experimenting with working conditions, and misleading the public about driver earnings. By using algorithms and rhetoric to blur the line between workers and consumer, Uber exemplifies the ways in which technology can rewrite rules of law and society.
Based on Rosenblat’s first hand experience of riding 5,000 miles with Uber drivers, daily visits to online forums from 2014-2018, and face-to-face discussions with Uber senior employees, Uberland goes beyond what we already know from the headlines. With a critical eye towards unveiling the truth, Rosenblat illustrates how our future will be affected by the complex nature between algorithms and workers. Be it family life or childcare arrangements, worker conditions or management practices, commuting patterns or urban planning, or racial equality campaigns and labor rights initiatives, Uberland provides a rare window into the profound social and cultural shifts taking place today.
Alex Rosenblat is a technology ethnographer. She works as a researcher and an interdisciplinary scholar at the Data & Society Research Institute in New York City. Her most recent and prize-winning work is available in the International Journal of Communications, the Columbia Law Review, the Policy & Internet Journal, and Surveillance & Society. Her research is also featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MIT Technology Review, Vice, Quartz, WIRED, Time, Technology Review-Heise, New Scientist, Guardian, CTV. She is an occasional contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Motherboard, Slate, The Atlantic, and Pacific Standard.