Future Ways of Working in the Digital Economy
A four-year research project funded by the Research Council of Norway
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A four-year research project funded by the Research Council of Norway
The growing prevalence of gig work creates both opportunities and challenges for Human Resource Management.
In this special issue of the Human Resource Management Review focusing specifically on the gig economy, Catherine Connely, Christian Fieseler, Matej Černe, Steffen Ribert Giessner and Sut I Wong provide an informative discussion on how and why one should study HR in the context of the gig economy. The article also lays out useful suggestions for future research on the topic.
Metropolitan cities are often thought of as ‘icons of the creative economy’. However, many argue that low pay, expensive housing and fierce competition have made such cities nearly unlivable.
How do creative workers make sense of their geographical career transitions after moving from urban cities to more remote locations? How important is the role of the urban context for the success of creative careers, as well as for quality of life? Find out more in Alachovska Ana, Christian Fieseler and Sut I Wong’s research article published in Human Relations (journal)
The rise of the gig economy has given fuel to digital labour platforms such as “Upwork” and “Fiverr”. Many important aspects of these platforms’ services are controlled by non-transparent algorithmic management, leading gig workers to use specific strategies to pacify the algorithm.
Learn more about how gig workers deal with algorithmic management and its opacity in the research article written by Eliane Bucher, Peter Schou and Matthias Waldkirch published in the journal Organization.
Gemma and Christoph, together with Aurelia Tamò-Larrieux (University of St. Gallen), Eduard Fosch-Villaronga (Leiden University), Rehana Harasgama (Bär und Karrer) and Gil Scheitlin (University of Zurich), published their paper "Innovation under pressure: Implications for data privacy during the Covid-19 pandemic" in the open access journal Big Data & Society (2019 impact factor of 4.577).
In their contribution, the authors discuss the privacy implications of rushed innovations that are rolled out speedily in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Two examples serve as key cases: contact tracing apps and Zoom. The implications are discussed from a socio-technical and from a legal perspective, offering a comprehensive take on the topic. The article is freely available under the following link.
Gemma and Christoph published their paper "Fairness, Legitimacy and the Regulation of Home-Sharing Platforms" in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (2019 impact factor of 5.667). In this piece, Gemma and Christoph take up debates about the regulation of home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb. While legal research has looked into regulatory matters from a macro-perspective, the user-perspective on regulatory desirability is under-reflected and under-researched. The article tackles this gap by drawing on fairness theory as well as legitimacy discourses, postulating that the perceived procedural, interpersonal and informational fairness of home-sharing platforms affects their legitimacy positively and their regulatory desirability negatively. Using three experimental vignette surveys, the postulated hypotheses are supported. Home-sharing platform can bolster their legitimacy and reduce the desire for their regulation by acting fairly. The findings are particularly timely because home-sharing platforms, such as Airbnb, are heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and have faced backlash from users (especially hosts) and regulators, challenging their legitimacy and making fairness a key matter of urgency. The paper is available under the following link.
Workplace surveillance is traditionally conceived of as a dyadic process, with an observer and an observee. In this paper, I discuss the implications of an emerging form of work place surveillance: surveillance with an algorithmic, as opposed to human, observer. Situated within the on-demand food-delivery context, I draw upon Henri Lefebvre’s spatial triad to provide in-depth conceptual examination of how platforms rely on conceived space, namely the virtual reality generated by data capture, while neglecting perceived and lived space in the form of the material embodied reality of workers. This paper offers a two-fold contribution. Firstly, it applies Henri Lefebvre’s spatial triad to the techno-centric digital cartography used by platform-mediated organisations, assessing spatial power dynamics and opportunities for resistance. Secondly, this paper advances organisational research into workplace surveillance in situations where the observer and decision-maker can be a non-human agent. Please access the paper 'Algorithmic surveillance in the gig economy: The organisation of work through Lefebvrian conceived space' here.
Our article Digital labourers’ proactivity and the venture for meaningful work: Fruitful or fruitless? was just published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.
In their study, Sut I, Christian and Dominique make the point that contrary to what platform organizations may expect, digital labourers view crowdworking as both a job and a career, which in turn fosters meaningfulness. Based on work with more than 800 digital laborers, the article proposes that careers are important aspect in understanding digital labourers’ understanding of their jobs and careers, and the platforms facilitating digital work could gain in providing career development opportunities, instead of focusing on short‐term incentives. The article is available here
We have recently published a new conceptual article on careers in the gig economy, in the Human Resource Management Journal. In the article, we we debate the obstructions to and potential ways to promote boundaryless careers in the gig economy, which—despite appearing on the surface to offer suitable conditions for boundaryless careers—suffers from numerous conditions that hinder such careers.
In particular, we then conjecture that intraorganisational and interorganisational career boundaries restrict gig workers' development of relevant career competencies and thus limit their mobility. We then put forward the notion that we have to consider moving awayfrom traditional, employer-centric human resource management and introduce new forms of network-based and self-organised human resource management practices (in the form of collaborative communities of practice) in order to diminish these boundaries.
The article is available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1748-8583.12265
Nordic Centre collaborators Anabel Quan-Haase, Lyn Hoang (both University of Western Ontario) and Grant Blank (University of Oxford) have just published a new article in the prestigious journal Information, Communication & Society. In "The Winners and the Losers of the Platform Economy: Who Participates?" Lyn, Grant and Anabel investigate the predictors of participation in the platform economy. Using rich and representative survey data from the United States, they show that participants in different sectors of the platform reveal vastly different social profiles. In particular, those who work through labor-exchange platforms tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, while participants of online selling platforms tend to be from affluent backgrounds. The findings indicate the need to study the platform economy in a (more) fine-grained manner. Anabel and Grant are involved as international collaborators in the Toppforsk project "Future Ways of Working in the Digital Economy". Their research interests are in the sociological study of the Internet, particularly from a digital inequalities and privacy perspective.
Gemma and Christoph published a new paper in New Media & Society (2018 impact factor of 4.800). Their article "Crowdwork and the mobile underclass: Barriers to participation in India and the United States" came out in late January 2020.
It uses rich survey data from more than 600 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers in India and the United States to investigate if and how these workers use mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) for their tasks and task-related activities. As a theoretical basis, Gemma and Christoph rely on the mobile underclass argument, which describes how mobile Internet access is second-class Internet access due to limitations in functionality, content availability and openness of protocols. The results paint a differentiated picture but offer support for the mobile underclass argument. While many workers report using mobile devices on Amazon Mechanical Turk, this use is complementary and seen as limiting. Substantial barriers to mobile crowdwork exist in in terms of functionality, accessibility, and affordability (especially in India). In the United States, the frequency of mobile phone use for crowdwork has a negative effect on hourly earnings, indicating that workers are effectively penalized for using mobile devices. The study calls for more awareness among Amazon Mechanical Turk requesters (including researchers) to make their tasks mobile-friendly, enabling participation among mobile-first and mobile-only Internet users.
The article "The privacy implications of social robots: Scoping review and expert interviews" was recently published in Mobile Media & Communication. The paper by Christoph Lutz, Maren Schöttler (Free University of Berlin) and Christian Pieter Hoffmann (University of Leipzig) systematically assesses the privacy implications of social robots, based on a scoping review and expert interviews.
In the scoping review, the authors analyze 33 relevant publications across fields. In the expert interviews, salient aspects from the literature review are discussed in more depth through the voices of four academic experts, one practitioner, and one policy expert. Together, the analyses show that social robots introduce new privay challenges due to their autonomy and mobility. The article is available here and is part of a Mobile Media & Communication special issue on the topic of "mobile media beyond the mobile phone".
Christoph Lutz, together with co-authors Heike Felzmann (NUI Galway), Eduard Fosch Villaronga (University of Leiden) and Aurelia Tamo-Larrieux (University of Zurich), published a new article in the open access journal Big Data & Society.
Their conceptual article "Transparency you can trust: Transparency requirements for artificial intelligence between legal norms and contextual concerns" investigates the phenomenon of transparency in artificial intelligence (AI) and automated decision-making from a legal, sociological and ethical perspective. The article is a continuation of earlier work on this issue and extends the analyses from robotics to AI more generally. The full article is freely available here. Since its publication at the end of June 2019, the paper has been downloaded over 1000 times and has been heavily tweeted, reaching up to 200000 followers.
Christoph Lutz' article Digital Inequalities in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data has been published in the new journal Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies. In this comprehensive literature review, Christoph summarizes previous research on digital inequalities and then shows avenues how this literature might engage with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and the gig economy. The article is a call for exploring technologies such as smart speakers, online labor platforms and social media through the sociological lens of inequalities, showing how different population groups adopt, use and benefit in different ways from such emerging technologies. The article can be found here and is freely accessible.
Christoph Lutz, together with co-authors Heike Felzmann (NUI Galway), Eduard Fosch-Villaronga (University of Leiden) and Aurelia Tamo-Larrieux (University of Zurich), managed to publish the article Robots and Transparency: The Multiple Dimensions of Transparency in the Context of Robot Technologies in the prestigious IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine (2018 Impact Factor of 4.250).
In the article, the authors look at the transparency requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and problematize its application in the context of social and assistive robots. The article can be found here.
Gemma Newlands, Christoph Lutz and Christian Fieseler saw their new article Trading on the Unknown: Scenarios for the Future Value of Data published in the May issue of Law & Ethics of Human Rights. The journal is one of the key outlets in human rights law, ranking number 3 (out of 44) in the W&L Law Journal Ranking.
The paper is part of the special issue "Sharing Economy Markets and Human Rights" and reflects on the ways in which sharing economy platforms, such as Airbnb and Uber, place bets on the future through excessive data collection. It proposes four scencarios of data's future value and discusses how realistic each scenario is.
The article The Conditioning Function of Rating Mechanisms for Consumers in the Sharing Economy by Gemma Newlands, Christoph Lutz and Christian Fieseler was published in the prestigious journal Internet Research (2018 Impact Factor of 4.109).
The paper is a continuation of their 2018 HICSS paper Emotional Labor in the Sharing Economy and forms part of a special issue on the sharing economy. Gemma, Christoph and Christian show through a mixed-methods design how sharing economy consumers (e.g., Airbnb guests, Uber passengers) perform emotional labor, for example by hiding negative feelings. Such emotional labor is perceived as burdensome but necessary due to the bilateral rating mechanisms that major sharing platforms have in place.
In this article, we develop a framework for managing algorithmic accountability that highlights three interrelated dimensions: reputational concerns, engagement strategies, and discourse principles.
The framework clarifies (a) that accountability processes for algorithms are driven by reputational concerns about the epistemic setup, opacity, and outcomes of algorithms; (b) that the way in which organizations practically engage with emergent expectations about algorithms may be manipulative, adaptive, or moral; and (c) that when accountability relation-ships are heavily burdened by the opacity and fluidity of complex algorithmic systems, the emphasis of engagement should shift to a rational communication process through which a continuous and tentative assessment of the development, workings, and consequences of algorithms can be achieved over time. The article is now out in the Journal of Business Ethics and is available here:
Our newest piece on Mattering in Digital Labor was published this week in the Journal of Managerial Psychology. In this publication, Eliane, Christian and Christoph develop a measure of mattering in crowdworking with four dimensions: reliance, social recognition, importance and interaction.
They show that reliance is the most pronounced dimension, followed by interaction, importance and social recognition. 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 WE, the paper makes a contribution to research on crowdwork and the future of work. Beyond the theoretical contributions, the finding that perceived importance fosters WE has important implications for task and platform design.
The article is aviable in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, link: