Hating Management by Algorithm

Uber drivers have three areas of consistent complaints about working “for” algorithms, concerns that are also seen in other companies using algorithmic management

Constant surveillance
As soon as they log onto the Uber app, drivers are watched and scrutinized by the platform’s algorithms; the app tracks their GPS location, speed, and acceptance rate of customer requests. It instructs them which riders to pick up where, and how to get to the riders’ destinations. If the drivers diverge from the app’s instructions they can be penalized or even banned from the platform. Regardless of whether the attention comes through an app or in person, we know that scrutiny of work can reduce productivity.

Little transparency
While the app is learning a lot about them, Uber drivers find it frustrating how little they know about the app. They find the lack of transparency of the underlying logic of the complex algorithms frustrating, believing it to be an unfair system which manipulates them subtly without their knowledge or consent. (Indeed, Uber has previously admitted to drawing on insights from behavioral science to nudge drivers to work longer hours).

Drivers at Uber report feeling equally lonely, isolated, and dehumanized. They don’t have colleagues to socialize with or a team or community to be part of. They lack the opportunity to build a personal relationship with a supervisor. Those on crowd-work platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk have raised similar complaints as they conduct “micro-tasks” such as classifying content or participating in surveys.

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