Associate Professor - Department of Communication and Culture
Area of Expertise
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian, Lutz, Christoph & Buhmann, Alexander (2021)
Professionals, purpose-seekers and passers-through - How microworkers reconcile alienation and platform commitment through identity work
New Media & Society
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)
Controlled by the algorithm, coached by the crowd–how HRM activities take shape on digital work platforms in the gig economy
International Journal of Human Resource Management, 32(12), s. 1- 36. Doi: 10.1080/09585192.2021.1914129
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)
Entrepreneurial learning in online communities
Small Business Economics, 1, s. 1- 22. Doi: 10.1007/s11187-021-00502-8
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)
Pacifying the Algorithm – Anticipatory compliance in the face of algorithmic management in the gig economy
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)
Shaping Emotional Labor Practices in the Sharing Economy
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)
Mattering in Digital Labor
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)
Authenticity and the Sharing Economy
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)
The Role of Privacy Concerns in the Sharing Economy
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)
Unfairness by Design? The Perceived Fairness of Digital Labor on Crowdworking Platforms
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)
The Flow of Digital Labor
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)
What's mine is yours (for a nominal fee) – Exploring the spectrum of utilitarian to altruistic motives for Internet-mediated sharing
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
Castello, Itziar; Fieseler, Christian & Bucher, Eliane (2021)
Moral legitimisation in science, technology and innovation policies
[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 & Kalum Schou, Peter (2019)
Self-disciplinary practices and algorithmic control on digital work platforms
[Academic lecture]. EGOS Colloquium.
Bucher, Eliane; Kalum Schou, Peter & Frischherz, Fabian (2019)
Don’t poke the algorithm – The emergence of self-disciplinary practices in the face of algorithmic governance
[Academic lecture]. Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management.
Bucher, Eliane; Fieseler, Christian, Lutz, Christoph & Newlands, Gemma Elisabeth Marjorie (2018)
Managing Emotional Labor in the Sharing Economy
[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)
The Oversharing Economy – Investigating Authenticity on Airbnb
[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)
Alone in the Crowd – Alienation in Digital Labor
[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.
|2013||University of St. Gallen, Switzerland||PhD|
|2016 - Present||BI Norwegaian Business School||Researcher|