Gig Work: Courier Stories

The work in the gig economy is characterised by opacity and alienation. Using sleek and shiny app interfaces accessible at a finger’s touch on our smartphones, the digital platforms operating in the gig economy effectively hide from view the intensive human labour that ultimately enables our daily instant gratifications. In the case of platform food deliveries, this hidden work comes in the form of a moving dot on the map, invested with the luring promise of a tasty and warm meal. Our relationship with workers are turned into a simple ranking and reputation system designed to regulate the performance of workers (Gandini 2016) . As the possibilities for social bonds and empathy with workers are stripped away from us, there are very few opportunities to get to know about the working conditions in the gig economy (Woodcock and Graham 2020).

This work draws on preliminary data resulting from an ongoing project on the social implication of platform-based food deliveries. We use a mixed methods approach involving ethnographic work alongside creative methods comprised of graphic illustrations and multimedia interactive mapping to account for the working conditions of platform food couriers in Manchester, UK.

Cosmin Popan (Manchester Metropolitan University)
José Sherwood González (Manchester Metropolitan University)