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filtered by: labor


Benjamen Walker makes some of the best radio around….His finest work tends to come out in series of podcasts, exploring a complex issue through interviews and stories that unfold over two or more sequential weekly episodes.

The most recently concluded series is called “Instaserfs” and it focuses on the “sharing economy”, aka “the 1099” economy, the “gig economy” or as Ben offers, “the demand economy” or “the exploitation economy”. Struck by the ability to outsource virtually any task, Benjamen hires San Francisco native Andrew Callaway to make three episodes of his podcast as an “Instapodder”. The working method? Andrew’s task is to take on as many sharing economy jobs as he can and to report Benjamen about the experience, and whether he can pay his San Francisco rent with the money he earns.


“This article examines the implications of electronic monitoring systems for organizational information flows and worker control, in the context of the U.S. trucking industry. Truckers, a spatially dispersed group of workers with a traditionally independent culture and a high degree of autonomy, are increasingly subjected to performance monitoring via fleet management systems that record and transmit fine-grained data about their location and behaviors. These systems redistribute operational information within firms by accruing real-time aggregated data in a remote company dispatcher. This redistribution results in a seemingly incongruous set of effects. First, abstracted and aggregated data streams allow dispatchers to quantitatively evaluate truckers’ job performance across new metrics, and to challenge truckers’ accounts of local and biophysical conditions. Second, even as these data are abstracted, information about truckers’ activities is simultaneously resocialized via its strategic deployment into truckers’ social relationships with their coworkers and families. These disparate dynamics operate together to facilitate firms’ control over truckers’ daily work practices in a manner that was not previously possible. The trucking case reveals multifaceted pathways to the entrenchment of organizational control via electronic monitoring.”


paper | 02.13.15

Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society

Mark Latonero, Bronwyn Wex, Meredith Dank

D&S Fellow Mark Latonero and colleagues at USC Annenberg recently released a report on technology and labor trafficking. From USC Annenberg:

Migrant workers who are isolated from technology and social networks are more vulnerable to human trafficking, forced labor, and exploitation. These and other findings are detailed in a powerful new report, Technology and Labor Trafficking in a Network Society, released today by the Center for Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. This project was made possible by a grant from Humanity United, a U.S.-based foundation dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom.

The report includes the story of a young woman from the Philippines who was stranded in Malaysia after being misled by a deceptive labor recruiter. Despite having a mobile phone she did not want to call her family and make them worry. While being transported to an unknown destination by her brokers, she was apprehended by police. Interrogated and imprisoned, she hid her phone and called a friend for help. After a month the Philippine government finally intervened. As it turned out, the woman’s phone served to connect and disconnect her with unscrupulous recruiters, as well as support.


primer | 10.30.04

Data & Civil Rights: Employment Primer

Alex Rosenblat, Kate Wikelius, danah boyd, Seeta Peña Gangadharan, Corrine Yu

The complexity of hiring algorithms which fold all kinds of data into scoring systems make it difficult to detect and therefore challenge hiring decisions, even when outputs appear to disadvantage particular groups within a protected class. When hiring algorithms weigh many factors to reach an unexplained decision, job applicants and outside observers are unable to detect and challenge factors that may have a disparate impact on protected groups.

This document is a workshop primer from Data & Civil Rights: Why “Big Data” is a Civil Rights Issue.


primer | 10.08.14

Future of Labor: Networked Employment Discrimination

Alex Rosenblat, Tamara Kneese, danah boyd

As businesses begin implementing algorithms to sort through applicants and use third party services to assess the quality of candidates based on their networks, personality tests, and other scores, how do we minimize the potential discriminatory outcomes of such hiring processes?

This document was produced as a part of the Future of Work Project at Data & Society Research Institute. This effort is supported by the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs Future of Work inquiry, which is bringing together a cross-disciplinary and diverse group of thinkers to address some of the biggest questions about how work is transforming and what working will look like 20-30 years from now. The inquiry is exploring how the transformation of work, jobs and income will affect the most vulnerable communities, and what can be done to alter the course of events for the better.


primer | 10.08.14

Future of Labor: Technologically Mediated Artisanal Production

Tamara Kneese, Alex Rosenblat, danah boyd

From 3D printing to maker culture, there’s a rise of technical practices that resist large industrial and corporate modes of production, similar to what is occurring in artisanal food and agriculture. While DIY practices are not new, the widespread availability and cheap cost of such tools has the potential to disrupt certain aspects of manufacturing. How do we better understand what is unfolding?

This document was produced as a part of the Future of Work Project at Data & Society Research Institute. This effort is supported by the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs Future of Work inquiry, which is bringing together a cross-disciplinary and diverse group of thinkers to address some of the biggest questions about how work is transforming and what working will look like 20-30 years from now. The inquiry is exploring how the transformation of work, jobs and income will affect the most vulnerable communities, and what can be done to alter the course of events for the better.


Unionization emerged as a way of protecting labor rights when society shifted from an agricultural ecosystem to one shaped by manufacturing and industrial labor. New networked work complicates the organizing mechanisms that are inherent to unionization. How then do we protect laborers from abuse, poor work conditions, and discrimination?

This document was produced as a part of the Future of Work Project at Data & Society Research Institute. This effort is supported by the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs Future of Work inquiry, which is bringing together a cross-disciplinary and diverse group of thinkers to address some of the biggest questions about how work is transforming and what working will look like 20-30 years from now. The inquiry is exploring how the transformation of work, jobs and income will affect the most vulnerable communities, and what can be done to alter the course of events for the better.


primer | 10.08.14

Future of Labor: Workplace Surveillance

Alex Rosenblat, Tamara Kneese, danah boyd

Employers have long devised techniques and used new technologies to surveil employees in order to increase efficiency, decrease theft, and otherwise assert power and control over subordinates. New and cheaper networked technologies make surveillance easier to implement, but what are the ramifications of widespread workplace surveillance?

This document was produced as a part of the Future of Work Project at Data & Society Research Institute. This effort is supported by the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs Future of Work inquiry, which is bringing together a cross-disciplinary and diverse group of thinkers to address some of the biggest questions about how work is transforming and what working will look like 20-30 years from now. The inquiry is exploring how the transformation of work, jobs and income will affect the most vulnerable communities, and what can be done to alter the course of events for the better.


primer | 10.08.14

Future of Labor: Understanding Intelligent Systems

Alex Rosenblat, Tamara Kneese, danah boyd

Science fiction has long imagined a workforce reshaped by robots, but the increasingly common instantiation of intelligent systems in business is much more mundane. Beyond the utopian and dystopian hype of increased efficiencies and job displacement, how do we understand what disruptions intelligent systems will have on the workforce?

This document was produced as a part of the Future of Work Project at Data & Society Research Institute. This effort is supported by the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs Future of Work inquiry, which is bringing together a cross-disciplinary and diverse group of thinkers to address some of the biggest questions about how work is transforming and what working will look like 20-30 years from now. The inquiry is exploring how the transformation of work, jobs and income will affect the most vulnerable communities, and what can be done to alter the course of events for the better.


In this op-ed, Data & Society fellow Karen Levy discusses mandating electronic monitoring of truck drivers as a way to address unsafe practices in trucking. She argues that “electronic monitoring is an incomplete solution to a serious public safety problem. If we want safer highways and fewer accidents, we must also attend to the economic realities that drive truckers to push their limits.”


D&S fellow Karen Levy writes about the nation’s trucking system and the need for reform. Based on her three years of research around trucker’s compliance with federal regulations, she argues the changes must address root economic causes underlying a range of unsafe practices and that electronic monitoring is an incomplete solution to a serious public safety problem.

Truckers don’t work without sleep for dangerously long stretches (as many acknowledge having done) because it’s fun. They do it because they have to earn a living. The market demands a pace of work that many drivers say is impossible to meet if they’re “driving legal.”

If we want safer highways and fewer accidents, we must also attend to the economic realities that drive truckers to push their limits.


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