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Ngai Keung Chan

Ph.D. Candidate in Communication

Department of Communication, Cornell University

About Me

Hi! My name is Ngai Keung (Oliver) Chan. I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. I study the role of algorithms in transforming labor processes in the digitally-enabled gig economy. Using qualitative methods, I focus on how digitally-enabled service workers encounter, interpret, and manage algorithmic performance metrics (e.g., ratings, rankings, reviews, etc.) as part of their daily work practices.

My dissertation project “(Not) Managing Metrics: Algorithmic Labor Control and Resistance in the Gig Economy” is a qualitative multi-case study of digitally-enabled serivce workers’ practices. It aims to unravel the power dynamics underlying the production, interpretation, and uses of algorithmic performance metrics across on-demand labor platforms (e.g., Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, etc.). It aims to offers a comparative perspective of the politics of algorithmic metrics in digital service workplaces.

In addition to my doctoral research, I am interested in studying the politics of urban space and social movements (with a particular geographic focus on Hong Kong, my hometown). Before coming to Cornell, I spent a year of fieldwork in a multi-ethnic street market in Hong Kong, studying hawkers’ precarious work practices. I have also collaborated on research projects concerning the production and appropriation of public spaces for collective actions in Hong Kong.

My research has appeared in such journals as New Media & Society, Surveillance & Society, Media and Communication, and Space and Culture, among others.

Interests

  • Metric Culture
  • Gig Economy
  • Sociology of Quantification
  • Critical Data Studies
  • Politics of Platforms and Algorithms
  • The Impacts of Technology on Service Work

Education

  • Ph.D. Candidate in Communication, 2016 - Present

    Cornell University

  • MPhil. in Communication, 2016

    The Chinese University of Hong Kong

  • BSSc. in Government and Public Administration, 2014

    The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Recent News

  • Forthcoming article: Chi Kwok and I wrote about the politicization and re-policing of Hong Kong’s Victoria Park in the 1970s in Space and Culture. [Nov 2019]

  • Two new articles about Uber: “The rating game: The discipline of Uber’s user-generated ratings” in Surveillance & Society and ““Becoming an expert in driving for Uber”: Uber driver/bloggers’ performance of expertise and self-presentation on YouTube” in New Media & Society. [April 2019]