E330-01 - Forschungsbereich Arbeitswissenschaft und Organisation
ESPANET2022 Vienna Conference
12-Sep-2022 - 16-Sep-2022
platform economy, platform-mediated care work, location-based platform work, working conditions, gender, digital business models
Digital labor platforms are sometimes associated with the narrative of revolutionizing the care sector by providing service-oriented, flexible solutions whenever a care worker is needed. They use algorithmic management, nudges, and rating mechanisms to organize care work locally. These digital ways of organizing labor are known from other online platforms, such as ride-hailing and food delivery. One the one hand, these platforms were criticized for accelerating an informalization of work, referred to as “Uberization” (i.a. Ticona und Mateescu 2018:4387). On the other hand, scholars have argued that online platforms in the care sector enable a shift towards formalization: from servant labor to capitalist service labor (Huws 2019:19f). These contradicting propositions call for further in-depth research. In this paper, we shed light on the experience of platform-mediated care workers, taking into account the platform’s design. We are interested in how platform-mediated care workers experience (in)formalization of their work and how the platform’s design fosters their experiences. We explore the entanglement of technology and the social by applying a socio-material perspective (Orlikowski 2000) on the digital labor platforms. We hypothesize that both processes, i.e. formalization and uberization, are characteristic for care platforms at the same time and propose that these process are interwoven. This is undermining potential positive effects of more formal working relationships in the care sector. We use a case study approach to analyze an international subscription-based care work platform that ‘matches’ families with nannies and babysitters for child care in Austria. We apply a triangulation approach of research methods and combine a qualitative approach based on constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz 2008) using problem-centered interviews with platform-mediated care workers with a systematic analysis of characteristics of the platform. Data collection was carried out partly in the context of the Fairwork project1. We conducted interviews by applying a theoretical sampling strategy to achieve a diverse sample concerning gender, age, ethnicity/migration experience and qualifications. Our findings indicate that platform-mediated care work does not lead to formalization of care work. Rather, care workers are put in an “in-between” state characterized by contingency work (Nachtwey und Staab 2015). The study points towards the gendered and racialized dimension of care work via digital platforms. Workers in less privileged situations experience more disadvantages within these intertwined processes of formalization and uberization, while others can benefit from the “in-between” condition of platform-mediated care work.
Literature Charmaz, Kathy. 2008. „Grounded theory as an emergent method“. Handbook of emergent methods 155:172. Huws, Ursula. 2019. „The hassle of housework: Digitalisation and the commodification of domestic labour“. Feminist review 123(1):8–23. Nachtwey, Oliver, und Philipp Staab. 2015. „Die Avantgarde des digitalen Kapitalismus“. Mittelweg 36(24):6. Orlikowski, Wanda J. 2000. „Using technology and constituting structures: A practice lens for studying technology in organizations“. Organization science 11(4):404–28. Ticona, Julia, and Alexandra Mateescu. 2018. „Trusted Strangers: Carework Platforms’ Cultural Entrepreneurship in the on-Demand Economy“. New Media & Society 20(11):4384– 4404. doi: 10.1177/1461444818773727.
Fairwork: Arbeitsbedingungen in der ortsgebundene Plattformarbeit: MA23-939738-2020-8 (Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien; Stadt Wien)