11 Oct 2023, 14.30
Location: Seminar Room S2 in the Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge



In this seminar, we talk about the spatial and temporal dimensions of digital labour platforms’ apparatuses of labour control, and the discordant datascapes that arise in the interstices between platforms’ logics and workers’ experiences. Location-based platforms, such as those intermediating delivery and ride-hailing services, are able to assume cartographic authority in important ways. They integrate mapping, time-keeping, and identification infrastructures as core elements of their toolkit of labour control. These infrastructures surveil workers and create data-derived subjects in automated ways that allow for limited negotiation, despite how platforms’ data, determinations and decisions often stand at odds with workers’ lived realities.

Drawing on data from interviews and app walkthroughs with delivery drivers in South India, and desk-based research on delivery platform operations, we discuss the ways that platforms sort and manage urban spatialities and the labour force they rely on —and the incongruous logics workers must contend with as a result. We present a series of what we call “platform counter-cartographies” to visualise the spatial narratives that are mobilised by platform conglomerates, and how they are discordant with workers’ intersectional experiences. We show how the spatial and temporal logics embedded in location-based platforms’ hyper-taylorist system of labour control can be traced and countered through alternative mapping processes.

Bios of Speakers

Srujana Katta srujana.katta@oii.ox.ac.uk

Srujana Katta is a PhD student at the University of Oxford. She conducts ethnographic activist-research on collective action among ride-hail drivers in Hyderabad, in collaboration with the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU).

Yung Au yung.au@oii.ox.ac.uk

Yung Au is a PhD student at the University of Oxford whose research explores data-driven social issues and organising efforts surrounding these issues. Yung is also part of No Tech for Tyrants, a research-activist collective working on issues surrounding technology-mediated surveillance, and is an Associate Lecturer at the University Arts London (UAL) specialising in creative methodologies and mapping.

Organisers: Debangana Bose, Garima Sahai, Grace Mueller, Kate Brockie

This seminar will be held by the Working Lives Lab jointly organised by the Philomathia Social Sciences Programme and the Decent Work and Youth Livelihoods Programme at the University of Cambridge.

Social Science Research for the 21st Century - Progress through Partnership

Email: philomathia@admin.cam.ac.uk