‘You can’t pick up a phone and talk to someone’: How algorithms function as biopower in the gig economy

Michael Walker*, Peter Fleming, Marco Berti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper asks why there is so little collective dissent and mobilised resistance in the gig economy, especially when labour-based digital platforms are used. We suggest part of the answer lies with ‘management by algorithm’. Drawing on an empirical study of Uber drivers in Australia, we found that algorithms function as a form of biopower, a concept introduced by Michel Foucault. As Uber drivers ‘life processes’ are put to work, fragmentation, isolation and resignation ensue. We explore the implications that our findings have for appreciating how biopower operates within platform capitalism and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-43
Number of pages18
JournalOrganization
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Algorithms
  • biopower
  • gig economy
  • platform capitalism
  • resistance
  • Uber

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