New publication: The App as a Boss?

The App as a Boss? Control and Autonomy in Application-Based Management

The rise of digital platforms requires a deeper understanding of the structural role of algorithmic management in work environments. In this interdisciplinary study published in the journal Arbeit | Grenze | Fluss, we examine how digital platforms, which offer food delivery service, use a mobile application for management of their workforce. 

In particular, we focus on the way the App affects the interplay between autonomy and control of riders working for Deliveroo and Foodora in Berlin. Drawing on interviews with self-employed riders at Deliveroo and employed riders at Foodora, we compare how app-based management functions in these different legal models under the German law. 

We find that despite these contractual differences, both companies use the App to delegate significant autonomy over work time and place, as well as delivery routes to the riders. However, the App simultaneously plays an important role in the platform’s infrastructure of the control of the riders. 

The data collected throughout the working process is automatically processed to send automated messages, compile statistics about individual performance and sort riders into three categories, which ultimately lead to their autonomy being restrained. 

We find that the design of the App, particularly the information asymmetry between the platform and the riders, is the key element in the way the platforms retain control over both self-employed and employed workers. 

You can download the publication as a PDF document here.

Authors: Mirela Ivanova, Joanna Bronowicka, Prof. Dr. Eva Kocher and Anne Degner

Project: The Algorithms as your Boss? Platformization and Decent Work

Funding: Hans-Böckler-Sifting

Reference: Mirela Ivanova, Joanna Bronowicka, Eva Kocher, Anne Degner (2018): The App as a Boss? Control and Autonomy in Application-Based Management. Arbeit | Grenze | Fluss – Work in Progress interdisziplinärer Arbeitsforschung Nr. 2, Frankfurt (Oder): Viadrina, doi:10.11584/Arbeit-Grenze-Fluss.2

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