Together we stand, divided we fall?
Aiming for collective action against exploitations in the gig economy? Well, don’t expect the…
Associate Professor - Department of Communication and Culture
Bucher, Eliane; Schou, Peter Kalum & Waldkirch, Matthias (2023)
Academy of Management Discoveries Doi: 10.5465/amd.2022.0112
Voice is crucial for workers as it enables them to better their organizations and exert some degree of control over managerial decision-making. Yet, as workers increasingly find jobs on digital platforms in the gig economy, traditional channels of voice are being replaced by digital voice channels, such as online communities. To add knowledge on how voice takes form on such channels, we collected conversation data from two online communities, which function as official (Upwork community) and unofficial (Reddit community) digital voice channels for gig workers active on Upwork. Based on a qualitative analysis of both communities, we discovered that when gig workers voice in digital channels, they tend to frame their voice¸ including signals of status and group membership. This voice framing creates different factions, which then engage in voice modulation, amplifying in-group members and muting outgroup members. Thereby, our study teases out how voice takes form in digital channels and how it differs from voice in traditional organizations. Our study contributes to the growing research at the intersection of voice and digital platforms.
Schou, Peter Kalum & Bucher, Eliane (2022)
The ‘gig economy’ presents a contested new work arrangement where freelancers find work on digital platforms. Subsequently, previous research has investigated how gig workers develop solidarity and take collective action against the exploitative practices of the platforms. However, this research is limited by mostly focusing on solidarity in contexts of local gig worker communities. We investigate whether freelancers who work on a global platform, Upwork, which hires people for diverse and complex jobs, can build up solidarity in a global online community. Applying a mixed-methods research design, we analysed how gig workers responded to a policy change by Upwork that affected their working conditions negatively. In doing so, we outline how solidarity breaks down in an online community of gig workers, due to them realising different interests and identities. We contribute to recent discussions on solidarity in the gig economy, and online communities as tools for organising.
Alacovska, Ana; Bucher, Eliane & Fieseler, Christian (2022)
Based on interviews with 49 visual artists, graphic designers and illustrators working on two leading global digital labour platforms, this article examines how creative workers perform relational work as a means of attenuating labour commodification, precarity, and algorithmic normativity. The article argues that creative work on online labour platforms, rather than being entirely controlled by depersonalised, anonymised and algorithm-driven labour market forces, is also infused in relational infrastructures whose upkeep, solidity and durability depends on the emotional efforts undertaken by workers to match economic transactions and their media of exchange to meaningful client relations. By applying a relational work perspective from economic sociology to the study of platform-mediated gig work, the article elucidates the micro-foundations of creative work in the digital gig economy, including how labour inequalities are produced and reproduced within and around micro-level interpersonal interactions.
Bucher, Eliane; Schou, Peter Kalum, Waldkirch, Matthias, Grünwald, Eduard & Antons, David (2021)
Symon, Gillian; Pritchard, Katrina & Hine, Christine (red.). Research Methods for Digital Work and Organization: Investigating Distributed, Multi-Modal, and Mobile Work
Meurer, Madeleine; Waldkirch, Matthias, Schou, Peter Kalum, Bucher, Eliane & Burmeister-Lamp, Katrin (2021)
Small Business Economics, 58, s. 637- 663. Doi: 10.1007/s11187-021-00540-2
COVID-19 has caused significant and unforeseen problems for entrepreneurs. While entrepreneurs would normally seek social support to help deal with these issues, due to social distancing, physical networks are often not available. Consequently, entrepreneurs must turn to alternative support sources, such as online communities, raising the question of how support is created in such spaces. Drawing on an affordance perspective, we investigate how entrepreneurs interact with online communities and base our qualitative analysis on conversation data (76,365 posts) from an online community of entrepreneurs on Reddit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings draw out four affordances that online communities offer to entrepreneurs (resolving problems, reframing problems, reflecting on situations, refocusing thinking and efforts), resulting in a framework of entrepreneurial support creation in online communities. Thus, our study contributes to debates around (1) entrepreneurs’ support during COVID-19 and (2) digital affordances in the entrepreneurship context.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian, Lutz, Christoph & Buhmann, Alexander (2021)
Digital microwork consists of remote and highly decontextualized labor that is increasingly governed by algorithms. The anonymity and granularity of such work is likely to cause alienation among workers. To date we know little about how workers reconcile such potential feelings of alienation with their simultaneous commitment to the platform. Based on a longitudinal survey of 460 workers on a large microworking platform and a combination of quantitative and qualitative analyses, we show that (1) alienation is present in digital microwork. However, our study also finds that (2) workers’ commitment to the platform over time may alter their subjective perceptions of alienation. Drawing from qualitative statements, we show (3) how workers perform identity work that might help reconcile feelings of alienation with simultaneous platform commitment. Our findings contribute to solving the paradox of worker commitment to precarious platform labor, which is an issue frequently raised in the digital labor literature.
Waldkirch, Matthias; Bucher, Eliane, Schou, Peter Kalum & Grünwald, Eduard (2021)
An increasing number of workers turn to digital platforms – such as Fiverr, Freelancer, and Upwork – as an alternative to traditional work arrangements. Digital platforms govern how gig workers join, move through, and leave platforms – often with the help of self-learning algorithms. While digital platforms and algorithms take on HRM practices, we know little about how HRM activities unfold on digital work platforms in the gig economy. The study therefore aims to understand how HRM activities apply to and take shape on digital platforms by studying worker perceptions. We combine supervised text analysis with an in-depth qualitative content analysis, relying on 12’924 scraped comments from an online forum of workers on Upwork. We outline five conversations on HRM practices that pertain to access and mobility, training and development, scoring and feedback, appraisal and control and platform literacy and support. Based on these findings, we build five propositions about how digital work platforms employ HRM activities. Our paper contributes to recent work on HRM on digital platforms by (1) developing a new mixed-methods approach that illustrates how the content of HRM practices may differ from traditional organizations, (2) highlighting the changing role of actors in creating HRM practices by introducing the concept of ‘crowd-created’ HRM practices, and (3) conceptualizing how digital platforms employ a ‘hybrid HRM approach’.
Schou, Peter Kalum; Bucher, Eliane & Waldkirch, Matthias (2021)
New digital technologies possess the potential to transform entrepreneurial processes, such as how entrepreneurs pursue opportunities and access funding and how they learn. How entrepreneurs learn may be transformed as digital technologies provide new spaces for learning, such as online communities. Online communities can gather thousands of participants and provide entrepreneurs with new opportunities for learning that are not limited by time, space, or social class. Yet, we know little about how entrepreneurs take advantage of the new digital opportunities of learning. To remedy this, we studied a large online community of entrepreneurs on Reddit (r/startups), where we qualitatively analyzed the top-voted 100 threads from 2018 to 2019 (10,277 comments in total). By drawing on coactive vicarious learning, a theory that describes how learning is socially constructed through discursive interactions, we outline how entrepreneurial learning is socially constructed through conversations, which are taking place in different micro-learning contexts. Through identifying distinct entrepreneurial learning conversations, we build new theory on entrepreneurial learning in online communities. Our theorizing contributes to (1) the growing research on how entrepreneurial learning is socially constructed in communities, (2) the current debate on knowledge creation in online communities, and (3) the knowledge on how coactive vicarious learning unfolds in communities.
Bucher, Eliane; Schou, Peter Kalum & Waldkirch, Matthias (2020)
Algorithmic management is used to govern digital work platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr. However, algorithmic decision-making is often non-transparent and rapidly evolving, forcing workers to constantly adapt their behavior. Extant research focuses on how workers experience algorithmic management, while often disregarding the agency that workers exert in dealing with algorithmic management. Following a sociomateriality perspective, we investigate the practices that workers develop to comply with (assumed) mechanisms of algorithmic management on digital work platforms. Based on a systematic content analysis of 12,294 scraped comments from an online community of digital freelancers, we show how workers adopt direct and indirect “anticipatory compliance practices”, such as undervaluing their own work, staying under the radar, curtailing their outreach to clients and keeping emotions in check, in order to ensure their continued participation on the platform, which takes on the role of a shadow employer. Our study contributes to research on algorithmic management by (1) showing how workers adopt practices aimed at “pacifying” the platform algorithm; (2) outlining how workers engage in extra work; (3) showing how workers co-construct the power of algorithms through their anticipatory compliance practices.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian, Lutz, Christoph & Newlands, Gemma Elisabeth Marjorie (2020)
Maurer, Indre; Mair, Johanna & Oberg, Achim (red.). Theorizing the Sharing Economy: Variety and Trajectories of New Forms of Organizing
Independent actors operating through peer-to-peer sharing economy platforms co-create service experiences, such as shared car-rides or homestays. Emotional labor among both parties, manifested in the mutual enactment of socially desirable behavior, is essential in ensuring that these experiences are successful. However, little is known about emotional labor practices and about how sharing economy platforms enforce emotional labor practices among independent actors, such as guests, hosts, drivers, or passengers. To address this research gap, we follow a mixed methods approach. We combine survey research among Airbnb and Uber users with content analysis of seven leading sharing economy platforms. The findings show that (1) users perform emotional labor despite not seeing is as necessarily desirable and (2) platforms actively encourage the performance of emotional labor practices even in the absence of direct formal control. Emotional labor practices are encouraged through (hard) design features such as mutual ratings, reward systems, and gamification, as well as through more subtle (soft) normative framing of desirable practices via platform and app guidelines, tips, community sites, or blogs. Taken together, these findings expand our understanding of the limitations of peer-to-peer sharing platforms, where control over the service experience and quality can only be enforced indirectly.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian & Lutz, Christoph (2019)
Purpose: Online gig labor platforms bring together a global and fast-growing workforce to complete highly granular, remote and decontextualized tasks. While these environments might be empowering to some workers, many others feel disenfranchised and removed from the final product of their labor. To better understand the antecedents of continued participation in forms of crowdsourced digital labor, we explore the relationship between worker’s ability to create a narrative of their work mattering regardless, and their continued work engagement in these work setups. Design: We approach the relationship between individual mattering and digital work engagement through a longitudinal study among workers on the crowdworking platform Amazon Mechanical Turk. We further provide qualitative insight into individual perceptions of mattering based on essay data. Findings: We develop a measure of mattering in crowdworking with four dimensions: reliance, social recognition, importance, and interaction. Reliance is the most pronounced dimension, followed by interaction, importance and social recognition. In the final longitudinal model, only importance affects work engagement positively, while the other three mattering dimension do not have a significant effect. Originality: The findings indicate that individuals who feel that they themselves and their work ‘count’ and ‘make a difference’ will be more engaged in their digital labor. By clarifying the dimensionality of mattering in crowdwork and studying its differentiated effect on work engagement, the paper makes a contribution to research on crowdwork and the future of work. Beyond the theoretical contributions, the finding that perceived importance fosters work engagement has important implications for task and platform design.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian, Fleck, Matthes & Lutz, Christoph (2018)
Based on a qualitative interview-study as well as on a quantitative survey among users of the room sharing platform Airbnb, we show that situational closeness between sharing economy consumers and providers may prompt instances of interpersonal contamination which in turn negatively impact reviewer behaviour and intention to engage in room sharing in the future. However, we also show that authenticity plays a significant alleviating role in shaping such closeness perceptions. Users whose sense of authenticity is evoked in their sharing experiences are significantly less bothered by negative instances of interpersonal closeness and are thus more liable to use sharing services. Our results point to the integral nature of both authenticity and the invocation of notions of authenticity for sharing business models who are reliant, by their very nature, on alleviating the imperfections of amateur production.
Lutz, Christoph; Hoffmann, Christian Pieter, Bucher, Eliane & Fieseler, Christian (2018)
Internet-mediated sharing is growing quickly. Millions of users around the world share personal services and possessions with others—often complete strangers. Shared goods can amount to substantial financial and immaterial value. Despite this, little research has investigated privacy in the sharing economy. To fill this gap, we examine the sharing-privacy nexus by exploring the privacy threats associated with Internet-mediated sharing. Given the popularity of sharing services, users seem quite willing to share goods and services despite the compounded informational and physical privacy threats associated with such sharing. We develop and test a framework for analyzing the effect of privacy concerns on sharing that considers institutional and social privacy threats, trust and social-hedonic as well as monetary motives.
Fieseler, Christian; Bucher, Eliane & Hoffmann, Christian Pieter (2017)
Based on a qualitative survey among 203 US workers active on the microwork platform Amazon Mechanical Turk, we analyze potential biases embedded in the institutional setting provided by on-demand crowdworking platforms and their effect on perceived workplace fairness. We explore the triadic relationship between employers, workers, and platform providers, focusing on the power of platform providers to design settings and processes that affect workers’ fairness perceptions. Our focus is on workers’ awareness of the new institutional setting, frames applied to the mediating platform, and a differentiated analysis of distinct fairness dimensions.
Bucher, Eliane & Fieseler, Christian (2017)
Digital microwork is a type of labor that many—typically poorly paid—workers engage in. In our research, we focus on an experience-based model of digital labor and the nonmonetary benefits derived from such activities. Based on a survey of 701 workers at Amazon Mechanical Turk, we demonstrate that experiences during digital labor sequences generate flow-like states of immersion. We show that reaching flow-like states while performing microwork depends on certain work characteristics, such as the particular worker’s degree of autonomy, the extent to which a worker’s skills are utilized, and the apparent significance of and feedback derived from the task. The results both highlight the importance of flow-like immersion in explaining why individuals engage in digital labor projects and point to avenues that can lead to the design of better digital work experiences.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian & Lutz, Christoph (2016)
Computers in Human Behavior, 62, s. 316- 326. Doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.04.002
In this contribution, we scrutinize the diverse motives for internet-mediated sharing as well as their role in shaping attitudes towards sharing one's possessions in commercialized as well as non-commercialized settings. On the basis of qualitative and quantitative research, we first develop a scale of sharing motives, showing that the reasons for participating in online sharing platforms are more nuanced than previously thought. Second, employing a motivational model of sharing, rooted in the theory of planned behavior, we show that sharing attitudes are driven by moral, social-hedonic and monetary motivations. Furthermore, we identify materialism, sociability and volunteering as predictors of sharing motives in different sharing contexts. Against this background, we explore the possible role of monetary incentives as a necessary but not sufficient condition for sharing one's possessions with others
Bucher, Eliane; Buhmann, Alexander & Fieseler, Christian (2022)
[Academic lecture]. Academy of Management Annual Conference.
Castello, Itziar; Fieseler, Christian & Bucher, Eliane (2021)
[Academic lecture]. Academy of Management Conference.
Worldwide, governments and institutions are formulating AI strategies that try to square the aspiration of exploiting the potentials of machine learning with safeguarding their communities against the perceived ills of unchecked artificial systems. We make the claim that these new class of documents are an interesting showcase for a recent turn in policy work and formulation, that increasingly tries to intertwine moral sentiment with strategic dimensions. This process of moralizing is interesting and unprece-dented coming from governmental actors, as these documents are guidance documents but not law. Given the significant leeway in development trajectories of open meta-technologies such as artificial intelligence, we argue that these more moralizing ele-ments within policy documents are illustrative of a new class of policy writing, meant to catalyze and shape public opinion and thus by proxy development
Bucher, Eliane; Buhmann, Alexander & Fieseler, Christian (2020)
[Academic lecture]. 69th ICA Annual Conference.
Buhmann, Alexander; Bucher, Eliane & Fieseler, Christian (2019)
[Academic lecture]. CSR Communication Conference.
Bucher, Eliane & Kalum Schou, Peter (2019)
[Academic lecture]. EGOS Colloquium.
Bucher, Eliane; Kalum Schou, Peter & Frischherz, Fabian (2019)
[Academic lecture]. Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian, Lutz, Christoph & Newlands, Gemma Elisabeth Marjorie (2018)
[Academic lecture]. Academy of Management Annual Meeting.
In the sharing economy, independent actors routinely get together to co-create service experi-ences. Here, emotional labor plays a central role in creating successful encounters. Little is known about how organizations in the sharing economy instill emotional labor practices among actors outside their direct sphere of influence. Based on a mixed methods approach which combines survey research and correspondence analysis with content analysis, we show first how both providers (hosts, drivers) and consumers (guests, passengers) of the sharing economy engage in emotional labor for the benefit of the overall quality of the sharing experi-ence. Second, we argue that platforms as facilitators of the exchange relationship actively encourage such emotional labor practices – even in the absence of direct formal power – through (hard) design features such as mutual ratings, reward systems and gamification, and through more subtle (soft) normative framing of desirable practices via platform and app guidelines, tips, community sites or blogs.
Bucher, Eliane; Lutz, Christoph & Fleck, Matthes (2017)
[Academic lecture]. Academy of Management Annual Meeting.
The peer-to-peer sharing economy facilitates instances of situational closeness between con-sumer and provider that would usually occur only within a closed circle of family and friends. In the context of room sharing experiences, temporary spatial closeness with the provider (host) may create for the consumer (guest) instances of perceived interpersonal contamination in the form of ambient contamination, artifact contamination, interpersonal contact, or privacy intrusion. Based on a qualitative interview-study as well as on a quantitative survey among users of the room sharing platform Airbnb, we show that authenticity plays a significant role in shaping closeness perceptions. Further, we show that users who seek authenticity in their sharing experiences are significantly less disturbed by instances of interpersonal contamina-tion and that negative closeness perceptions, such as interpersonal contact or contaminating objects, have a strong impact on intentions to engage in room sharing in the future. Our results may help to explain one of the core drivers behind both the success of the sharing business model and the success of secondary services in the sharing economy such as key handling or house cleaning services. However, while this secondary service layer reduces instances of interpersonal contamination, it also reduces the potential for authenticity in the sharing economy.
Fieseler, Christian; Bucher, Eliane & Lutz, Christoph (2017)
[Academic lecture]. 33rd EGOS Colloquium, Copenhagen 2017.
On the basis of a survey among 804 workers on the crowdsourcing platform Amazon Mechanical Turk, we show that (1) alienation, a form of detachment from working life, in the form of powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation, and self-estrangement, is often present among workers. On the basis of qualitative vignettes, we furthermore argue that (2) the perception of digital labor as alienating is not universal, depending on the perceived importance of workers’ labor and the relational nature with their contractors.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian & Lutz, Christoph (2017)
[Academic lecture]. 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA).
On the basis of a survey among 804 workers on the crowdsourcing platform Amazon Mechanical Turk, we show that (1) alienation, a form of detachment from working life, may be present in digital workplaces in the form of powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation, and self-estrangement. Furthermore, on the basis of qualitative vignettes, we argue that (2) the perception of digital labor as alienating is not universal, perhaps because it is often wrapped in a learned narrative of entrepreneurial belonging and empowerment. Finally, on the basis of a multiple-group analysis, we propose that (3) individual mattering (high vs. low), in the form of perceived awareness, importance and reliance may be the key to explaining differences in the effect of alienating factors such as powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement on emotional exhaustion, work engagement and organizational commitment in the digital workplace.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian & Hoffmann, Christian Pieter (2016)
[Academic lecture]. 32nd European Group for Organizational Studies Conference.
Lutz, Christoph; Bucher, Eliane, Fieseler, Christian & Hoffmann, Christian Pieter (2016)
[Academic lecture]. 32nd European Group for Organizational Studies Conference.
Internet-mediated sharing is booming to an unprecedented degree. Millions of people around the world share their possessions with others – often with complete strangers. The shared goods can amount to substantial financial and immaterial value, as is the case for shared rooms and flats via Airbnb and similar services. While the question of trust in the sharing economy is being increasingly explored, surprisingly little research is devoted to privacy in the sharing economy. In this contribution, we tackle that research gap and explore the sharing-privacy nexus. In analogy to the privacy paradox in online contexts such as social media, we propose a sharing paradox for the sharing economy: Users attach considerable value to their goods, yet they share them quite willingly. We describe ways that privacy can be endangered with sharing, present a variety of explanations how the sharing paradox can be entangled and finally suggest how empirical studies could go about researching it.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian & Hoffmann, Christian Pieter (2016)
[Academic lecture]. 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association.
As new information and communication technologies change organizations, they affect how organizations contribute to or mitigate inequalities in the workplace. Currently, online platforms facilitate the dissolution of organizational structures, the unravelling of jobs, and the allocation of clearly defined tasks to a crowd of willing laborers. Digital on-demand service platforms constitute a new institutional setting for the labor of an ever-increasing dispersed, anonymous and fluid workforce. Based on a qualitative survey among 203 US workers active on the microwork platform amazon mechanical turk, we analyze inequalities embedded in the institutional setting provided by on-demand service platforms and their effect on perceived workplace fairness. We explore the triadic relationship between employers/requesters, workers and platform providers, focusing on the power of platform providers to design settings and processes that one-sidedly disadvantage workers. We differentiate workers’ perceptions of the role of platform providers in ensuring workplace fairness. Based on workers’ suggestions for increasing fairness, we identify systematic conflicts of interest between workers and platform providers. We derive policy suggestions for mitigating inequalities ingrained in on-demand service platforms and for bolstering workplace fairness in the age of platform capitalism.
|2013||University of St. Gallen, Switzerland||PhD|
|2016 - Present||BI Norwegaian Business School||Researcher|