Mediatization of social space and the case of Uber drivers

Abstract

Digital data have become a form of “objectivation”, which affect how we construct social knowledge and organize social space (Couldry & Hepp, 2017). The workplace is one sphere that is increasingly datafied. This study explores how Uber drivers, a form of digitally-enabled service workers, contribute to the normalization of the social production of space through their interpretative practices of digital data in an online forum. Drawing on Uber’s corporate discourse and an Uber driver online forum, we analyze two facets of the Uber app and drivers’ mediated experiences:(1) the quantification and discipline of drivers’ performance through Uber’s rating system and (2) the coordination of spatial movement through location-related metrics. We argue that the underlying workings of the Uber app premediate expectations of service encounters and spatial movement. Uber drivers meanwhile develop practices which respond to and circumvent their own data contributions to the system. Drivers’ practices, we argue, are largely in compliance with the calculative logics set by Uber. The article addresses implications of Uber drivers’ practices for the reproduction of social space and power-relations in digitally-enabled service work and the gig economy.

Publication
Media and Communication, 6(2), 29-38

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