Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading. Currently can only be used by a single user (myself), but I plan to extend it to support multiple users eventually.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

Author

Law and Political Economy
by multiple authors


Worker Surveillance and Class Power
July 11, 2018

Really thoughtful piece by a law professor on how new technologies for surveilling workers are used to disempower workers as a class, with some examples drawn from Uber. The point of monitoring technologies is, of course, to rinse out so-called “inefficiencies”: to “push workers to perform harder, faster, and for less”. Data gathered from constant surveillance builds a map of how workers are using their time, which is then used to “squeeze out nearly all downtime”. This has implications for the traditional view of the nature of the “firm”, drawing from economist Ronald Coase’s work on transaction costs:

In a Coasean approach, the challenge of monitoring workers outside the firm may be a transaction cost that encourages the firm to bring them inside as employees […] Yet where firms can develop near-perfect knowledge about workers’ performance, the calculus changes.

What this implies is that ever-improving technology for monitoring and disciplining workers shifts the contract-vs-employee balance, incentivising firms to outsource/offshore work as long as they can still guarantee an acceptable degree of efficiency/productivity. This definitely corresponds to what we’re seeing with the gig economy - not just the more visible manifestations (Uber, Deliveroo), but the increasingly global chain of gig workers whose efforts are mediated and accordingly surveilled by platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk who, of course, retain most of the power.

Rogers ends by suggesting that countering this trend requires building power from below, rather than merely trying to play regulatory catch-up:

[…] a strategy of worker empowerment and deliberative governance rather than command-and-control regulation […] new forms of unionization and collective bargaining could address the everyday invasions of privacy or erosions of autonomy that arise through technological monitoring. […] Workers could also be woven into state and federal policy-making in a more sustained fashion. They could be guaranteed seats on new administrative boards established to consider responses to technological change, for example, or given a formal role in a more robust industrial policy that aims to create high-skill jobs and to train workers to take them on.

/
1

Worker Surveillance and Class Power

Really thoughtful piece by a law professor on how new technologies for surveilling workers are used to disempower workers as a class, with some examples drawn from Uber. The point of monitoring technologies is, of course, to rinse out so-called “inefficiencies”: to “push workers to perform harder, faster, and for less”. Data gathered from constant surveillance builds a map of how workers are using their time, which is then used to “squeeze out nearly all downtime”. This has implications for the traditional view of the nature of the “firm”, drawing from economist Ronald Coase’s work on transaction costs:

In a Coasean approach, the challenge of monitoring workers outside the firm may be a transaction cost that encourages the firm to bring them inside as employees […] Yet where firms can develop near-perfect knowledge about workers’ performance, the calculus changes.

What this implies is that ever-improving technology for monitoring and disciplining workers shifts the contract-vs-employee balance, incentivising firms to outsource/offshore work as long as they can still guarantee an acceptable degree of efficiency/productivity. This definitely corresponds to what we’re seeing with the gig economy - not just the more visible manifestations (Uber, Deliveroo), but the increasingly global chain of gig workers whose efforts are mediated and accordingly surveilled by platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk who, of course, retain most of the power.

Rogers ends by suggesting that countering this trend requires building power from below, rather than merely trying to play regulatory catch-up:

[…] a strategy of worker empowerment and deliberative governance rather than command-and-control regulation […] new forms of unionization and collective bargaining could address the everyday invasions of privacy or erosions of autonomy that arise through technological monitoring. […] Workers could also be woven into state and federal policy-making in a more sustained fashion. They could be guaranteed seats on new administrative boards established to consider responses to technological change, for example, or given a formal role in a more robust industrial policy that aims to create high-skill jobs and to train workers to take them on.

/