Databite No. 116: Louis Hyman

Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary

12.05.18 - 4:00 pm

Data & Society Research Institute
New York, New York

RSVP is required. Data & Society's Databites speaker series is geared toward engaging our network and the broader public on unresolved questions and timely topics of interest to the D&S community. Questions? Contact [email protected]

Why has work become insecure? Data & Society welcomes historian Louis Hyman for a talk on the surprising origins of the “gig economy.” Hyman’s latest book Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary tracks the transformation of an ethos that favored long-term investment in work (and workers) to one promoting short-term returns. A series of deliberate decisions preceded the digital revolution, setting off the collapse of the postwar institutions that insulated us from volatility including big unions, big corporations, and powerful regulators.

Through the experiences of those on the inside–consultants and executives, temps and office workers, line workers and migrant laborers–Temp shows how the American Dream was unmade.

Hyman will be joined in conversation by Data & Society’s Labor Engagement Lead Aiha Nguyen and Researcher Alex Rosenblat.

RSVP is required to attend. This public event is the fourth in a fall conversation series at Data & Society on themes from our Social Instabilities in Labor Futures initiative. Watch the livestream here.

3:30pm Doors open
4-5pm Public talk + Q&A
5-7pm Book Sale and Reception: snacks and sips provided.


Louis Hyman is a historian of work and business at the ILR School of Cornell University, where he also directs the Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. In addition to Temp, the book we’re here to learn more about tonight, he has published two books on the history of personal debt (Debtor Nation and Borrow). Originally from Baltimore, Hyman received a BA in history and mathematics from Columbia University. A former Fulbright scholar and McKinsey associate, he received his PhD in American history from Harvard University. He is a founding editor of the Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism book series from Columbia University Press and the director of the History of Capitalism Summer Camp.

Alex Rosenblat is a technology ethnographer. A researcher at the Data & Society Research Institute, she holds an MA in sociology from Queen’s University and a BA in history from McGill University. Rosenblat’s writing has appeared in media outlets such as The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, Slate, and Fast Company. Her research has received attention worldwide and has been covered in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, MIT Technology Review, WIRED, New Scientist, and The Guardian. Many scholarly and professional publications have also published her prizewinning work, including the International Journal of Communication and the Columbia Law Review.


The Social Instabilities in Labor Futures research initiative at Data & Society seeks to better understand emergent disruptions in the labor force as a result of data-centric technological development, with a special focus on structural inequalities. Its team recently released the report Beyond Disruption: How Tech Shapes Labor Across Domestic Work & Ridehailing–as featured in The New York Times, NPR All Things Considered, and The Nation.


Data & Society is an independent nonprofit research institute that advances public understanding of the social implications of data-centric technologies. The Data & Society “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.

Questions about Databite No. 116? Contact Data & Society Research Institute.

Persons with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations or who have questions about physical access may contact [email protected] in advance of the event.


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