eventOctober 27 2022

Power & Retail at the Digital Doorstep

Aiha Nguyen,

Eve Zelickson, Moira Weigel, Edward Ongweso

Databite No. 151

“The doorstep has become a space for consumption. It’s at the point where something that’s purchased becomes private property, and in itself it is private property.
But for the worker in that space, it’s their workspace. And so there are all these dynamics and different ideas
about what needs to happen in that space that makes
it a really contentious space. It also is a
space that isn’t clearly regulated.”

— Aiha Nguyen

When an Amazon package arrives at your doorstep, it’s a non-event. Rarely do we pause to wonder about the workers involved, including the original merchant who shipped our purchase or the delivery driver who ferried it to our porch. This is no accident: logistics that appear seamless and impersonal are ones Amazon can manage at a distance. Having an army of hidden intermediaries also allows Amazon and other giant retail enterprises to set a grueling gold standard for retail interactions. 

Edward Ongweso and Moira Weigel joined us for “Power and Retail at the Digital Doorstep,” a conversation hosted by Data & Society’s Labor Futures initiative, about the hidden relational dynamics that shape how we shop today. With a pair of D&S reports on the changing nature of commerce as our starting point, we will discuss the experiences of two crucial but often overlooked workforces — third party sellers and delivery drivers — in an effort to trace emerging networks of control and power in retail.

About the Speakers

Aiha Nguyen |  @aihanguyen

Aiha Nguyen leads the Labor Futures Initiative at Data & Society, which seeks to better understand emergent disruptions in the labor force as a result of data-centric technological development, and create new frames for understanding these disruptions through evidence-based research and collaboration with stakeholders. Aiha guides research and engagement, with a birds-eye view of the stakeholders and actors in the field of labor and technology. She brings a practitioner’s perspective to Data & Society, having worked for over a decade in community and worker advocacy and organizing.

Eve Zelickson | @zel_eve

Eve is a research analyst with the Social Instabilities in Labor Futures Team at Data & Society. Eve studies issues at the intersection of technology, labor, and privacy. She is currently a Visiting Journalist at Cornell’s Digital Life Initiative. Prior to joining Data & Society, Eve worked as a Social Researcher for the EU-funded project P2P Models, exploring how decentralized technology can create a worker-centric collaborative economy. Eve received her bachelors from Brown University with a degree in Science, Technology, and Society where she completed her honors thesis “A Balancing Act: Hybrid Organizations in the Collaborative Economy Empirical Evidence from Amara on Demand.”

Edward Ongweso | @bigblackjacobin 

Edward Ongweso Jr is a staff writer at Motherboard, where he covers labor, crypto, and Silicon Valley. Edward is also a co-host of This Machine Kills. Follow Edward on Twitter at @bigblackjacobin.

Moira Weigel | @moiragweigel

Moira Weigel is a scholar and founding editor of Logic magazine. Originally trained in modern languages, including German and Mandarin Chinese, she now studies digital media in a global context, focusing on vulnerabilities and opportunities that arise from the translingual and transnational movements of texts, images, information, and human actors. She is currently conducting a study of Amazon Marketplace, focused on the experiences of Amazon Sellers in the US, China, and the European Union.

Alongside her academic research, Moira is a cofounder of Logic magazine and Logic Books and co-editor of Voices from the Valley (2020), a collection of interviews with anonymous workers from across the Bay Area tech industry. She received her PhD from the joint program in Comparative Literature and Film and Media Studies at Yale University and spent 2017–2020 at the Harvard Society of Fellows. In 2021, she joined Northeastern University as an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies. She is an alumnus of Data & Society.


Work by Edward Ongweso

Work by Moira Weigel

Additional Readings


Producer: Rigoberto Lara Guzmán

Co-Producer: Tunika Onnekikami 

Webpage: Alessa Erawan

Editorial: Eryn Loeb

Additional support provided by Data & Society’s Engagement and Accounting teams.