Time is of the Essence: Spatiotemporalities of Food Delivery Platform Work in China

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Spatiotemporality has never been so prominent in the gig economy, where the mantra is to harness individual persons’ “spare time” across large geographical areas to create economic value with scale. The time-sensitive nature of food delivery service and the spatial distribution of a large number of delivery workers require intensive algorithmic coordination and control. In this paper, we report findings from a qualitative study conducted in Beijing with food-delivery platform workers and managers. By taking a critical, sociomaterial perspective, the study shows how the workers are tethered to and simultaneously co-construct multiple spatiotemporalities in their daily work to meet the demand of speed defined by platform algorithms. We further argue that the algorithms are not creating so-called “atomized” workers in the gig economy, but interconnected and co-dependent collective agencies in space and time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS 2020)
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 May 2020

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