robertogreco + sharingeconomy   47

Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

http://bayareadisrupted.com/

https://fredturner.stanford.edu

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Sharing Economy? (15 minute shortened version) by Upstream
[full version: https://soundcloud.com/upstreampodcast/the-sharing-economy ]

"In this shortened version of this episode, we look at how companies like Airbnb and Uber have influenced an entire generation and entirely shifted the economic landscape of major cities like San Francisco. Through candid conversations with journalists and industry insiders, we explore the darker side of these giant companies and investigate how this phenomenon arose and what implications are in store.

Featured guests:

Doug Henwood (Author, radio host, columnist for Harper's and the Nation Magazine)

Keally McBride (Professor of Politics and the Chair of International Studies at the University of San Francisco)

David Korman (Lyft driver, former TaskRabbit, Couchsurfing host)"
sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  precarity  precariousness  economics  2016  lyft  uber  airbnb  taskrabbit  politics  labor  work  sharing  keallymcbride  markets  capitalism  davidkorman  doughenwood 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Genius and the Sharing Economy — Medium
"At this point, I became probably overly obsessed with the fact that Jeremy and Rap Genius were featured front and center in that Times article about the declining interested in the Humanities, and then with the use of that Times piece as a “hiring” strategy of sorts. Whatever their deal was, it seemed clear that The Times gave Genius the credibility to claim that [1] the humanities needing saving and [2] that increased traffic and content on their site was the way to do it. I’m not sure what Genius gave The Times in return, but I’ll just add here that the Genius guy giving the talk said the New York Times wasn’t going to be around in 5 years anyway.

In a room full of bright-eyed future businesspeople, I felt like a alien interloper and began to fashion my own tinfoil hat theories even though I suppose this sort of deal is how the marriage of journalism and commerce always works. More selfishly, I began to suspect that the job ad I had read was not actually a real job ad. (I know, kind of rich given my last post here [https://medium.com/@exhaust_fumes/the-inside-can-didate-f8d0c2312be8 ]).

I suppose anything I say from here on out could easily be dismissed as elitist or turf warring, or maybe just naive and overly-sensitive; it’s quite possibly true that my reaction to the Stern talk was rooted in my own vested interest in universities keeping Humanities programs funded. I generally have a very weak stomach for any kind of pro-capitalist language in academic and educational contexts, and in the winter of 2013, I was emotionally drained from trying to finish a book and find another job, and spiritually-speaking, I was running on fumes."



"The opportunity to go to Brooklyn is indeed a good thing; I live in Queens, but I know how good it is across the bridge where many of my friends live. Really, I shouldn’t be so glib: it’s cool to be part of something devoted to teaching and a bonus to have your travel expenses paid. I think it is also, as I was saying at the beginning of this long-ass post, a great example of the fucking sharing economy and what’s wrong with it. Be grateful to people who use a small fraction of their VC money to fly you somewhere — but also think about the value of what you give them in return.

I’m using swears there in the hopes that I sound like a Genius when I say things I’m not totally sure about; I’m a bit out of my comfort zone talking about how a start-up makes and uses money. I’m really good with my own financial affairs and budget, but my academic expertise is in 16th and 17th century drama and history so I worry I don’t really know what I’m talking about. But perhaps you are somebody who knows a lot more about these things and perhaps you know where to look to answer some of the questions I’ve tried to raise here.

I have no doubt that Genius has content and a viable business model without content from educators. But I still want to know more about the role and real worth of our labor in an economy that asks the precariously employed to share while its founders and investors make money. Humanities scholars can see all the tensions of our professional choices in this economy: the fact that we do our work for pleasure, that others find pleasure in our work, and that the work we love is only lucrative for some."
vimalapasupathi  genius.com  annotation  hypothes.is  labor  sharingeconomy  work  2016  technology  humanities  scholarship  gigeconomy  mahbodmoghadam  precarity  unemployment  rapgenius  business  adjuncts  hiring  2015  jeremydean  stanfordlitlab  evankindley  disclosure  tamarlewin  nytimes 
july 2016 by robertogreco
61 Glimpses of the Future — Today’s Office — Medium
"1. If you want to understand how our planet will turn out this century, spend time in China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Brazil.

2. If you’re wondering how long the Chinese economic miracle will last, the answer will probably be found in the bets made on commercial and residential developments in Chinese 3rd to 6th tier cities in Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Tibet.

4. Touch ID doesn’t work at high altitude, finger prints are too dry.

5. You no longer need to carry a translation app on your phone. If there’s someone to speak with, they’ll have one on theirs.

6. A truly great border crossing will hold a mirror up to your soul.

9. The art of successful borderland travel is to know when to pass through (and be seen by) army checkpoints and when to avoid them.

10. Borders are permeable.

12. The premium for buying gasoline in a remote village in the GBAO is 20% more than the nearest town. Gasoline is harder to come by, and more valuable than connectivity.

13. After fifteen years of professionally decoding human behaviour, I’m still surprised by the universality of body language.

14. Pretentious people are inherently less curious.

15. Everything is fine, until that exact moment when it’s obviously not. It is easy to massively over/under estimate risk based on current contextual conditions. Historical data provides some perspective, but it usually comes down to your ability to read undercurrents, which in turn comes down to having built a sufficiently trusted relationship with people within those currents.

16. Sometimes, everyone who says they know what is going on, is wrong.

17. Every time you describe someone in your own country as a terrorist, a freedom is taken away from a person in another country.

18. Every country has its own notion of “terrorism”, and the overuse, and reaction to the term in your country helps legitimise the crack-down of restive populations in other countries.

17. China is still arguably the lowest-trust consumer society in the world. If a product can be faked it will be. Out of necessity, they also have the most savvy consumers in the world.

18. After twenty years of promising to deliver, Chinese solar products are now practical (available for purchase, affordable, sufficiently efficient, robust) for any community on the edge-of-grid, anywhere in the world. Either shared, or sole ownership.

20. When a fixed price culture meets a negotiation culture, fun ensues.

21. The sharing economy is alive and well, and has nothing to with your idea of the sharing economy.

25. Chinese truckers plying their trade along the silk road deserve to be immortalised as the the frontiersmen of our generation. (They are always male.)

29. The most interesting places have map coordinates, but no names.

30. There are are number of companies with a competitive smartphone portfolio. The rise of Oppo can be explained by its presence on every block of 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th tier Chinese cities.

32. People wearing fake Supreme are way more interesting than those that wear the real deal.

33. An iPhone box full of fungus caterpillar in Kham Tibet sold wholesale, is worth more than a fully specced iPhone. It’s worth 10x at retail in 1st/2nd Tier China. It is a better aphrodisiac too.

35. One of the more interesting aspects of very high net worth individuals (the financial 0.001%), is the entourage that they attract, and the interrelations between members of that entourage. This is my first time travelling with a spiritual leader (the religious 0.001%), whose entourage included disciples, and members of the financial 0.01% looking for a karmic handout. The behaviour of silicon valley’s nouveau riche is often parodied but when it comes to weirdness, faith trumps money every time. Any bets on the first Silicon Valley billionaire to successfully marry the two? Or vice versa?

37. For every person that longs for nature, there are two that long for man-made.

38. Tibetan monks prefer iOS over Android.

40. In order to size up the tribe/sub-tribe you’re part of, any group of young males will first look at the shoes on your feet.

42. After the Urumqi riots in 2009 the Chinese government cut of internet connectivity to Xinjiang province for a full year. Today connectivity is so prevalent and integrated into every aspect of Xinjiang society, that cutting it off it would hurt the state’s ability to control the population more than hinder their opposition. There are many parts to the current state strategy is to limit subversion, the most visible of which is access to the means of travel. For example every gas station between Kashi and Urumqi has barbed wire barriers at its gates, and someone checking IDs.

43. TV used to be the primary way for the edge-of-grid have-nots to discover what they want to have. Today it is seeing geotagged images from nearby places, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away.

44. Facebook entering China would be a Pyrrhic victory, that would lead to greater scrutiny and regulation worldwide. Go for it.

45. The sooner western companies own up to copying WeChat, the sooner we can get on with acknowledging a significant shift in the global creative center of gravity.

48. Green tea beats black tea for acclimatising to altitude sickness.

49. The most interesting destinations aren’t geotagged, are not easily geo-taggable. Bonus points if you can figure that one out.

50. The first time you confront a leader, never do it in front of their followers, they’ll have no way to back down.

51. There is more certainty in reselling the past, than inventing the future.

55. Pockets of Chengdu are starting to out-cool Tokyo.

56. To what extent does cultural continuity, and societal harmony comes from three generations under one roof?

58. If you want to understand where a country is heading pick a 2nd or 3rd tier city and revisit it over many years. Chengdu remains my bellwether 2nd tier Chinese city. It’s inland, has a strong local identity and sub-cultures, and has room to grow. Bonus: its’ only a few hours from some of the best mountain ranges in the world.

60. The difference between 2.5G and 3G? In the words of a smartphone wielding GBAO teenager on the day 3G data was switched on her town, “I can breathe”."
janchipchase  2016  travel  technology  borders  authenticity  pretension  curiosity  china  tibet  japan  eligion  culture  capitalism  wechat  facebook  android  ios  tokyo  chengdu  future  past  communication  tea  greentea  certainty  monks  translation  nature  indonesia  nigeria  brasil  brazil  india  shoes  connectivity  internet  mobile  phones  smartphones  sharingeconomy  economics  negotiation  touchid  cities  urban  urbanism  location  risk  relationships  consumers  terrorism  truckers  oppo  siliconvalley  wealth  nouveauriche  comparison  generations 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Uber Data And Leaked Docs Provide A Look At How Much Uber Drivers Make - BuzzFeed News
"Uber data suggests that drivers overall in three major U.S. markets — Denver, Detroit, and Houston — earned less than $13.25 an hour after expenses in late 2015, according to calculations based on more than a million trips."
uber  gigeconomy  sharingeconomy  2016  economics  work  labor 
june 2016 by robertogreco
After the Sharing Economy - Voice Republic
"In a world in which 17 percent of the world’s resources, the notion of a “sharing economy” offered, at least for a short period, a glimpse of hope for rebalancing the distribution of wealth. Yet despite its rhetoric of putting people and the planet first, the sharing economy has rapidly become more akin to a servitude economy, with the likes of Airbnb and Uber undermining existing services, enforcing their own labor regimes, and reshaping social infrastructures in their own image. Learning from these unfortunate developments, new initiatives, infrastructures, and practices have begun to emerge, seeking to address gross imbalances through a fundamental reconsideration of what ownership means. This panel will bring together a number proponents of new systems capable of “sharing” in wholly different ways, to discuss the lessons learned and unearth their emergent potentials."

[via: https://twitter.com/arikan/status/696959281434857474
"Heard the term protocoletariat first time from @jaromil at @transmediale "After the Sharing Economy", podcast here: https://twitter.com/_VoiceRepublic/status/696018258894393346 "]

[See also: "Eleanor Saitta & Smári McCarthy: Long Live the Protocoletariat! (29c3)"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU1s4aILGNY
via: "@arikan @foamspace @jaromil @transmediale @_VoiceRepublic @leashless @hexayurt @OuiShareFest @francescapick check: https://youtu.be/vU1s4aILGNY "]
sharingeconomy  vinaygupta  francescapick  denisrojo  jaromil  benvickers  protocoletariat  economics  servitude  labor  inequality  ownership  airbnb  uber  work 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Apploitation in a city of instaserfs | Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
"The most common defence of the sharing economy I hear is, “if it’s so bad, why are so many people doing it?” Many do it out of desperation. I’ve talked to a number of drivers who will work over 30 hours every weekend in addition to a full-time job just to have enough money to pay rent and take care of their kids. It can also seem like you’re making a lot more money than you really are if you’re not diligently adding up your expenses, many of which are invisible. For example, taxes aren’t taken out of your paycheck, so when April comes around it can be a shock to discover how much you owe.

On the other hand, the sharing economy can be a great thing for some of the workers. If you listen to the third episode of the “Instaserfs” series you will meet Brooklyn, an amazing TaskRabbit worker I hired to help me finish the show. She quit a six-figure salary to pursue her passion (a fashion blog at www.boisclub.com) She can do that and still pay the rent because of the flexibility she enjoys as an independent contractor. But she is legitimately an entrepreneur, not the average sharing economy worker..

There is a place in this world for the sharing economy, and it could be a beautiful thing, but where I live these companies run the show. There are no rules. The apps are breaking the spirit of the law by abusing the independent contractor loophole and actively encourage (e.g., through dubious car placards) actually breaking the law. But it will only ever be the workers, not the companies, who are punished. If you’re going to let the sharing economy into your country, dear Canada, please take control of the situation. Don’t just let the invisible hand lead you wherever it wants you to go."
2016  andrewcallaway  sharingeconomy  apploitation  exploitation  inequality  labor  work  uber  taskrabbit  lyft  postmates  instacart 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Deliveroo and its ilk are serving up low wages, insecurity and social division | Stefan Stern | Opinion | The Guardian
"And so it has come to this: swerving in and out of traffic to reach the customer in time to be free for the next call, should it come in"
gigeconomy  sharingeconomy  economics  deliveroo  stefanstern  insecurity  2015  wages  employment  uber  taskrabbit  livingwage  labor  work  inequality 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Robert Reich: The sharing economy will be our demise - Salon.com
"More independent contractors means less security for our workforce. The former secretary of labor sounds the alarm"
robertreich  sharingeconomy  uber  2015  socialsafetynet  precarity  labor  work  economics  society  inequality  insecurity 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why We Fight Uber | Jacobin
"The fight against the sharing economy, and Uber in particular, can be disorienting. Opposition is often painted as technophobia. The good guys in this story are Uber and progress; on the other side are opponents afraid of flexibility and smartphones, kicking and screaming against a future already here.

In many ways, this is like the fight of the Luddites (machine smashers) two hundred years ago at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. While the Luddites were fighting the way technology was used to further exploit rather than liberate workers, they were and are misrepresented as simply being afraid of and opposing technology.

Just as power looms and other machines inaugurated a technological revolution that ultimately produced more work for the many and greater wealth for the few, so too are modern technologies enriching Silicon Valley’s billionaires at the expense of drivers, delivery folk, and all manner of service workers.

The sharing economy that consumers experience as a friendly convenience is, for workers, a low-wage, precarious trap. It would sound all too familiar to the skilled cloth-makers who wanted machines to give them more leisure and continued control over their work, but instead found themselves subsidizing the profits of the machine owners in England’s “satanic mills.”

Today, few technologies have as much potential for easy cooperative management as those of the currently mislabeled sharing economy. These tools are not to blame. In fact, Internet-based technologies are an opportunity for worker management. As Mike Konczal wrote in the Nation a year ago:
Given that the workers already own all the capital in the form of their cars, why aren’t they collecting all the profits? Worker cooperatives are difficult to start when there’s massive capital needed up front, or when it’s necessary to coordinate a lot of different types of workers . . . If any set of companies deserves to have its rentiers euthanized, it’s those of the “sharing economy,” in which management relies heavily on the individual ownership of capital, providing only coordination and branding.

Silicon Valley’s version of sharing means that while we carry the risks of illness, breakdown, and everything else that comes with own our tools — the cars that we drive for Uber or the computers we use for online Taskrabbit chores — they get to say how the gains from our services are distributed.

The Luddites surely would be impressed that technology owners can now get rich simply by connecting people with each other. If looms and frames were the symbol for Luddites of their degradation, today’s drivers, couriers, and taskrabbits can only point to ephemeral platforms and apps. While the Luddites attacked their bosses by destroying their looms and faced violent reprisals sanctioned by law, the privately run digital networks of today are virtually impossible to physically disrupt while having the full force of the law behind them.

Instead of producing greater socialization that spreads wealth and decision-making, the sharing economy funnels money and control toward the top. Yet today’s world still has space for some pretty old-school demands the Luddites would recognize. They wanted to work less and have a say over how they worked (with technology!). We too could be using the fruits of technology to get ever-shorter workweeks, cooperate more, and manage aspects of the economy together.

Faced wth the charge of technophobia, we must remember that the fight against Uber is a fight for a technology that could be used to distribute work more equally and foster genuine cooperation. That fight, I hope, won’t be misremembered in some dystopian twenty-third century capitalism. Though I’m sure the Luddites would have had the same hopes of us."
uber  socialism  wealth  2015  michaelrozworski  siliconvalley  technosolutionism  technology  sharingeconomy  taskrabbit  capitalism  technophobia  luddism  luddites 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Bret Easton Ellis on Living in the Cult of Likability - The New York Times
"On a recent episode of the television series “South Park,” the character Cartman and other townspeople who are enthralled with Yelp, the app that lets customers rate and review restaurants, remind maître d’s and waiters that they will be posting reviews of their meals. These “Yelpers” threaten to give the eateries only one star out of five if they don’t please them and do exactly as they say. The restaurants feel that they have no choice but to comply with the Yelpers, who take advantage of their power by asking for free dishes and making suggestions on improving the lighting. The restaurant employees tolerate all this with increasing frustration and anger — at one point Yelp reviewers are even compared to the Islamic State group — before both parties finally arrive at a truce. Yet unknown to the Yelpers, the restaurants decide to get their revenge by contaminating the Yelpers’ plates with every bodily fluid imaginable.

The point of the episode is that today everyone thinks that they’re a professional critic (“Everyone relies on my Yelp reviews!”), even if they have no idea what they’re talking about. But it’s also a bleak commentary on what has become known as the “reputation economy.” In depicting the restaurants’ getting their revenge on the Yelpers, the episode touches on the fact that services today are also rating us, which raises a question: How will we deal with the way we present ourselves online and in social media, and how do individuals brand themselves in what is a widening corporate culture?

The idea that everybody thinks they’re specialists with voices that deserve to be heard has actually made everyone’s voice less meaningful. All we’re doing is setting ourselves up to be sold to — to be branded, targeted and data-mined. But this is the logical endgame of the democratization of culture and the dreaded cult of inclusivity, which insists that all of us must exist under the same umbrella of corporate regulation — a mandate that dictates how we should express ourselves and behave.

Most people of a certain age probably noticed this when they joined their first corporation, Facebook, which has its own rules regarding expressions of opinion and sexuality. Facebook encouraged users to “like” things, and because it was a platform where many people branded themselves on the social Web for the first time, the impulse was to follow the Facebook dictum and present an idealized portrait of their lives — a nicer, friendlier, duller self. And it was this burgeoning of the likability cult and the dreaded notion of “relatability” that ultimately reduced everyone to a kind of neutered clockwork orange, enslaved to the corporate status quo. To be accepted we have to follow an upbeat morality code where everything must be liked and everybody’s voice respected, and any person who has a negative opinion — a dislike — will be shut out of the conversation. Anyone who resists such groupthink is ruthlessly shamed. Absurd doses of invective are hurled at the supposed troll to the point that the original “offense” often seems negligible by comparison.

I’ve been rated and reviewed since I became a published author at the age of 21, so this environment only seems natural to me. A reputation emerged based on how many reviewers liked or didn’t like my book. That’s the way it goes — cool, I guess. I was liked as often as I was disliked, and that was OK because I didn’t get emotionally involved. Being reviewed negatively never changed the way I wrote or the topics I wanted to explore, no matter how offended some readers were by my descriptions of violence and sexuality. As a member of Generation X, rejecting, or more likely ignoring, the status quo came easily to me. One of my generation’s loudest anthems was Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” whose chorus rang out: “I don’t give a damn about my reputation/ I’ve never been afraid of any deviation.” I was a target of corporate-think myself when the company that owned my publishing house decided it didn’t like the contents of a particular novel I had been contracted to write and refused to publish it on the grounds of “taste.” (I could have sued but another publisher who liked the book published it instead.) It was a scary moment for the arts — a conglomerate was deciding what should and should not be published and there were loud arguments and protests on both sides of the divide. But this was what the culture was about: People could have differing opinions and discuss them rationally. You could disagree and this was considered not only the norm but interesting as well. It was a debate. This was a time when you could be opinionated — and, yes, a questioning, reasonable critic — and not be considered a troll.

Now all of us are used to rating movies, restaurants, books, even doctors, and we give out mostly positive reviews because, really, who wants to look like a hater? But increasingly, services are also rating us. Companies in the sharing economy, like Uber and Airbnb, rate their customers and shun those who don’t make the grade. Opinions and criticisms flow in both directions, causing many people to worry about how they’re measuring up. Will the reputation economy put an end to the culture of shaming or will the bland corporate culture of protecting yourself by “liking” everything — of being falsely polite just to be accepted by the herd — grow stronger than ever? Giving more positive reviews to get one back? Instead of embracing the true contradictory nature of human beings, with all of their biases and imperfections, we continue to transform ourselves into virtuous robots. This in turn has led to the awful idea — and booming business — of reputation management, where a firm is hired to help shape a more likable, relatable You. Reputation management is about gaming the system. It’s a form of deception, an attempt to erase subjectivity and evaluation through intuition, for a price.

Ultimately, the reputation economy is about making money. It urges us to conform to the blandness of corporate culture and makes us react defensively by varnishing our imperfect self so we can sell and be sold things. Who wants to share a ride or a house or a doctor with someone who doesn’t have a good online reputation? The reputation economy depends on everyone maintaining a reverentially conservative, imminently practical attitude: Keep your mouth shut and your skirt long, be modest and don’t have an opinion. The reputation economy is yet another example of the blanding of culture, and yet the enforcing of groupthink has only increased anxiety and paranoia, because the people who embrace the reputation economy are, of course, the most scared. What happens if they lose what has become their most valuable asset? The embrace of the reputation economy is an ominous reminder of how economically desperate people are and that the only tools they have to raise themselves up the economic ladder are their sparklingly upbeat reputations — which only adds to their ceaseless worry over their need to be liked.

Empowerment doesn’t come from liking this or that thing, but from being true to our messy contradictory selves. There are limits to showcasing our most flattering assets because no matter how genuine and authentic we think we are, we’re still just manufacturing a construct, no matter how accurate it may be. What is being erased in the reputation economy are the contradictions inherent in all of us. Those of us who reveal flaws and inconsistencies become terrifying to others, the ones to avoid. An “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”-like world of conformity and censorship emerges, erasing the opinionated and the contrarian, corralling people into an ideal. Forget the negative or the difficult. Who wants solely that? But what if the negative and the difficult were attached to the genuinely interesting, the compelling, the unusual? That’s the real crime being perpetrated by the reputation culture: stamping out passion; stamping out the individual."
socialmedia  facebook  culture  2015  likeability  presentationofself  breteastonellis  online  internet  conservatism  via:rushtheiceberg  uber  relatability  genx  generationx  ratings  criticism  critics  yelp  society  authenticity  liking  likes  reputation  data  biases  imperfections  subjectivity  virtue  anxiety  sharingeconomy  paranoia  blandness  invention  risktaking  conformity  censorship  groupthink 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Uber Counterculture - The Awl
"Chatter and dissent in the trenches of the sharing economy"



"But perhaps the most interesting part of this study, and one that should be interesting even to ideological opponents who might be tempted to dismiss this research outright, is the outline it draws of Uber contractors’ attempts to take back power, either through crude organization or individual data collection. It surveys driver experiences as gathered from interviews but also from the numerous Uber driver forums, which together have thousands of members and display, in general, an oppositional attitude toward the company.

[image]

This is labor organization refracted through forum culture: there are calls for collective action next to flamewars; there are trolls and apparent astroturfers; there are political battles in which drivers mockingly tell other drivers “it’s a job, not a career.” There are memes! There is, in the absence of any sort of physical interaction or official means of driver communication, a work culture. "



"When people in the startup world talk about “algorithmic labor unions,” or a “right to an API,” they might want to look at what people are already doing, and what they’re trying to achieve. (Also worth considering in this context: Airbnb’s effort to mobilize its own users for political gain).

What do they want?

The same data Uber has, at least!

When do they want it?

Before they’re replaced by machines and herded to the next app? Idk actually!!"
uber  johnherrman  2015  sharingeconomy 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning
"In all things, all tasks, all jobs, women are expected to perform affective labor – caring, listening, smiling, reassuring, comforting, supporting. This work is not valued; often it is unpaid. But affective labor has become a core part of the teaching profession – even though it is, no doubt, “inefficient.” It is what we expect – stereotypically, perhaps – teachers to do. (We can debate, I think, if it’s what we reward professors for doing. We can interrogate too whether all students receive care and support; some get “no excuses,” depending on race and class.)

What happens to affective teaching labor when it runs up against robots, against automation? Even the tasks that education technology purports to now be able to automate – teaching, testing, grading – are shot through with emotion when done by humans, or at least when done by a person who’s supposed to have a caring, supportive relationship with their students. Grading essays isn’t necessarily burdensome because it’s menial, for example; grading essays is burdensome because it is affective labor; it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting.

This is part of our conundrum: teaching labor is affective not simply intellectual. Affective labor is not valued. Intellectual labor is valued in research. At both the K12 and college level, teaching of content is often seen as menial, routine, and as such replaceable by machine. Intelligent machines will soon handle the task of cultivating human intellect, or so we’re told.

Of course, we should ask what happens when we remove care from education – this is a question about labor and learning. What happens to thinking and writing when robots grade students’ essays, for example. What happens when testing is standardized, automated? What happens when the whole educational process is offloaded to the machines – to “intelligent tutoring systems,” “adaptive learning systems,” or whatever the latest description may be? What sorts of signals are we sending students?

And what sorts of signals are the machines gathering in turn? What are they learning to do?
Often, of course, we do not know the answer to those last two questions, as the code and the algorithms in education technologies (most technologies, truth be told) are hidden from us. We are becoming as law professor Frank Pasquale argues a “black box society.” And the irony is hardly lost on me that one of the promises of massive collection of student data under the guise of education technology and learning analytics is to crack open the “black box” of the human brain.

We still know so little about how the brain works, and yet, we’ve adopted a number of metaphors from our understanding of that organ to explain how computers operate: memory, language, intelligence. Of course, our notion of intelligence – its measurability – has its own history, one wrapped up in eugenics and, of course, testing (and teaching) machines. Machines now both frame and are framed by this question of intelligence, with little reflection on the intellectual and ideological baggage that we carry forward and hard-code into them."



"We’re told by some automation proponents that instead of a future of work, we will find ourselves with a future of leisure. Once the robots replace us, we will have immense personal freedom, so they say – the freedom to pursue “unproductive” tasks, the freedom to do nothing at all even, except I imagine, to continue to buy things.
On one hand that means that we must address questions of unemployment. What will we do without work? How will we make ends meet? How will this affect identity, intellectual development?

Yet despite predictions about the end of work, we are all working more. As games theorist Ian Bogost and others have observed, we seem to be in a period of hyper-employment, where we find ourselves not only working numerous jobs, but working all the time on and for technology platforms. There is no escaping email, no escaping social media. Professionally, personally – no matter what you say in your Twitter bio that your Tweets do not represent the opinions of your employer – we are always working. Computers and AI do not (yet) mark the end of work. Indeed, they may mark the opposite: we are overworked by and for machines (for, to be clear, their corporate owners).

Often, we volunteer to do this work. We are not paid for our status updates on Twitter. We are not compensated for our check-in’s in Foursquare. We don’t get kick-backs for leaving a review on Yelp. We don’t get royalties from our photos on Flickr.

We ask our students to do this volunteer labor too. They are not compensated for the data and content that they generate that is used in turn to feed the algorithms that run TurnItIn, Blackboard, Knewton, Pearson, Google, and the like. Free labor fuels our technologies: Forum moderation on Reddit – done by volunteers. Translation of the courses on Coursera and of the videos on Khan Academy – done by volunteers. The content on pretty much every “Web 2.0” platform – done by volunteers.

We are working all the time; we are working for free.

It’s being framed, as of late, as the “gig economy,” the “freelance economy,” the “sharing economy” – but mostly it’s the service economy that now comes with an app and that’s creeping into our personal not just professional lives thanks to billions of dollars in venture capital. Work is still precarious. It is low-prestige. It remains unpaid or underpaid. It is short-term. It is feminized.

We all do affective labor now, cultivating and caring for our networks. We respond to the machines, the latest version of ELIZA, typing and chatting away hoping that someone or something responds, that someone or something cares. It’s a performance of care, disguising what is the extraction of our personal data."



"Personalization. Automation. Management. The algorithms will be crafted, based on our data, ostensibly to suit us individually, more likely to suit power structures in turn that are increasingly opaque.

Programmatically, the world’s interfaces will be crafted for each of us, individually, alone. As such, I fear, we will lose our capacity to experience collectivity and resist together. I do not know what the future of unions looks like – pretty grim, I fear; but I do know that we must enhance collective action in order to resist a future of technological exploitation, dehumanization, and economic precarity. We must fight at the level of infrastructure – political infrastructure, social infrastructure, and yes technical infrastructure.

It isn’t simply that we need to resist “robots taking our jobs,” but we need to challenge the ideologies, the systems that loath collectivity, care, and creativity, and that champion some sort of Randian individual. And I think the three strands at this event – networks, identity, and praxis – can and should be leveraged to precisely those ends.

A future of teaching humans not teaching machines depends on how we respond, how we design a critical ethos for ed-tech, one that recognizes, for example, the very gendered questions at the heart of the Turing Machine’s imagined capabilities, a parlor game that tricks us into believing that machines can actually love, learn, or care."
2015  audreywatters  education  technology  academia  labor  work  emotionallabor  affect  edtech  history  highered  highereducation  teaching  schools  automation  bfskinner  behaviorism  sexism  howweteach  alanturing  turingtest  frankpasquale  eliza  ai  artificialintelligence  robots  sharingeconomy  power  control  economics  exploitation  edwardthorndike  thomasedison  bobdylan  socialmedia  ianbogost  unemployment  employment  freelancing  gigeconomy  serviceeconomy  caring  care  love  loving  learning  praxis  identity  networks  privacy  algorithms  freedom  danagoldstein  adjuncts  unions  herbertsimon  kevinkelly  arthurcclarke  sebastianthrun  ellenlagemann  sidneypressey  matthewyglesias  karelčapek  productivity  efficiency  bots  chatbots  sherryturkle 
august 2015 by robertogreco
The Shut-In Economy — On Demand — Medium
"Katherine van Ekert isn’t a shut-in, exactly, but there are only two things she ever has to run errands for any more: trash bags and saline solution. For those, she must leave her San Francisco apartment and walk two blocks to the drug store, “so woe is my life,” she tells me. (She realizes her dry humor about #firstworldproblems may not translate, and clarifies later: “Honestly, this is all tongue in cheek. We’re not spoiled brats.”) Everything else is done by app. Her husband’s office contracts with Washio. Groceries come from Instacart. “I live on Amazon,” she says, buying everything from curry leaves to a jogging suit for her dog, complete with hoodie.

She’s so partial to these services, in fact, that she’s running one of her own: A veterinarian by trade, she’s a co-founder of VetPronto, which sends an on-call vet to your house. It’s one of a half-dozen on-demand services in the current batch at Y Combinator, the startup factory, including a marijuana delivery app called Meadow (“You laugh, but they’re going to be rich,” she says). She took a look at her current clients — they skew late 20s to late 30s, and work in high-paying jobs: “The kinds of people who use a lot of on demand services and hang out on Yelp a lot ☺”

Basically, people a lot like herself. That’s the common wisdom: the apps are created by the urban young for the needs of urban young. The potential of delivery with a swipe of the finger is exciting for van Ekert, who grew up without such services in Sydney and recently arrived in wired San Francisco. “I’m just milking this city for all it’s worth,” she says. “I was talking to my father on Skype the other day. He asked, ‘Don’t you miss a casual stroll to the shop?’ Everything we do now is time-limited, and you do everything with intention. There’s not time to stroll anywhere.”

Suddenly, for people like van Ekert, the end of chores is here. After hours, you’re free from dirty laundry and dishes. (TaskRabbit’s ad rolls by me on a bus: “Buy yourself time — literally.”)

So here’s the big question. What does she, or you, or any of us do with all this time we’re buying? Binge on Netflix shows? Go for a run? Van Ekert’s answer: “It’s more to dedicate more time to working.”"



"In many ways, social class can be defined by the chores you don’t do. The rich have personal assistants, butlers, cooks, drivers. The middle class largely do their own errands — with the occasional babysitter, pizza boy, maybe a cleaner. The poor do their own chores, and the chores of other people.

Then came on-demand’s disruptive influence. The luxuries usually afforded to one-percenters now stretch to the urban upper-middle class, or so the technology industry cheers. But can you democratize the province of the rich without getting a new class acting, well, entitled? My parents made me put away the dishes not to “outsource” their workload — they could have done it faster. They did it so I wouldn’t turn out to be a brat.

Now an entire generation is not just being served: It’s having to work out what it means when you buy someone to do it for you.

Katy Rogers is a 29-year-old account director at a social startup, and a regular with laundry and grocery apps. But when the Homejoy app maid shows up at her apartment, she feels uncomfortable. The class implications of someone cleaning her toilet are jarring. “I feel like it’s a little bit awkward. I’m thinking, what do these people think of me?” She also wonders about the workers. Rogers wishes the companies were a bit more transparent about the payment structure. (“Some of them say there’s no need to tip. I’m like why? How much are they actually going to earn?”)

While Dungeon & Dragons grabbed his dinner eagerly, Rogers has found herself tinkering with how exactly to interact with her hired help. By the end of our chat, it seemed as if she had almost talked herself out of the whole enterprise.“Maybe that’s something I should just do myself.”

Who cleaned her house growing up? I ask.

“My mom did everything.”

That’s the other side of this, the gender one. The errands being served up by the on-demand economy — cooking, cleaning, laundry, groceries, runs to the post office — all were all once, and in many places still are, the jobs of stay-at-home mothers. Even now, when women outnumber men in the formal workplace, they continue to bear the brunt of that invisible domestic work, often for many, many hours a week. So women — those who can afford it, at least — have the most to win from passing that load on to somebody else.

So it’s not a surprise that 60 percent of Alfred’s clients are female. One mother I know told me she has no time to cook while wrangling two kids under two, so she uses EAT24. Uber is an easy way to get out of the house with an infant, another told me, saying the driver helped her strap the baby seat into the black sedan.

The invisible work handed off by some women simply becomes visible — oftentimes for other, less wealthy women. Despite the name, 75 percent of “Alfreds” are women."



"The SherpaVentures report didn’t mention shut-ins. It did, however, point out that grocery delivery has taken off massively in hyper-dense developing countries, where huge income disparities allow upper-middle-class citizens to turn the rest of the workforce into their personal delivery network. In Mexico City, the study noted, 20 percent of grocery orders are made remotely.

As income inequality increases, the shut-in model is tailor-made for the new polarized extremes.

After all, either you’re behind the door, receiving your dinner in the tower. Or you’re like the food delivery guy who, while checking in with the concierge, said, “This is my dream place to live.” He’s the opposite of a shut-in. He’s stuck outside, hustling."
sharingeconomy  economics  labor  laurensmiley  2015  inequality  serfdom  services  serviceindustry  technology  uber  class  work 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Servitude Bubble — Bad Words — Medium
"I’m going to call it a Servitude Bubble. For the simple reason that it is largely based on creating armies of servants. You can call them whatever buzzwords you like — “tech-enabled always-on super-hustling freelance personal brand capitalists”. But the truth is simpler. The stuff of the Servitude Bubble makes a small number of people something like neofeudal masters, lords with a corncucopia of on-demand just-in-time luxury services at their fingertips. But only by making a very large number of people glorified neo-servants…butlers, maids, chauffeurs, waiters, etcetera.

The Servitude Bubble is creating “jobs”, sure — but only of the lowest kind: low-end, deskilled, dead-end, go-nowhere “service” jobs — that don’t only crush your soul, damage your psyche, and break your spirit — but waste your potential. Not “service” as in doctors and therapists— “service” as in pedicurists, trash-pickers, and dog-walkers. And so, on balance, it deskills and impoverishes human potential — it doesn’t expand and enrich it. The Servitude Bubble is made of stuff which, en masse, wastes, decimates, and demolishes the thing which counts most: human potential.

A bubble occurs when things are overvalued. What are ideas like the above really worth? They might — just might — be worth a little bit of change to a very small group of buyers. Google, Amazon, Apple, a hapless, clueless, doddering old media company here and there. But that’s like saying a subprime loan is “worth” it’s face value because a poor aging grandma can’t squint hard enough to read the fine print. Whether or not a handful of frat-bros is willing to fork over millions to one another for these startups like they were chess pieces in their struggles for corporate mid-life-crisis empire is besides the point."



"So the real servitude in the Servitude Bubble is the definition of “technology”. Once, technology meant stuff that went to the moon…cured fatal diseases…extended the human lifespan…enhanced human agency. Now, “tech” means stuff that…hails taxis…organizes butlers…automatically calls dogwalkers."
umairhaque  2015  sharingeconomy  servitude  labor  technosolutionism  economics  capitalism  inequality  ponzischemes 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Crowdforcing: When What I “Share” Is Yours
"One phenomenon that has so far flown under the radar in discussions of peer-to-peer production and the sharing economy but that demands recognition on its own is one for which I think an apt name would be crowdforcing. Crowdforcing in the sense I am using it refers to practices in which one or more persons decides for one or more others whether he or she will share his or her resources, without the other person’s consent or even, perhaps more worryingly, knowledge. While this process has analogs and has even itself occurred prior to the digital revolution and the widespread use of computational tools, it has positively exploded thanks to them, and thus in the digital age may well constitute a difference in kind as well as amount.

Once we conceptualize it this way, crowdforcing can be found with remarkable frequency in current digital practice."



"Crowdforcing effects also overlap with phenomena researchers refer to by names like “neighborhood effects” and “social contagion.” In each of these, what some people do ends up affecting what many other people do, in a way that goes much beyond the ordinary majoritarian aspects of democratic culture. That is, we know that only one candidate will win an election, and that therefore those who did not vote for that candidate will be (temporarily) forced to acknowledge the political rule of people with whom they don’t agree. But this happens in the open, with the knowledge and even the formal consent of all those involved, even if that consent is not always completely understood.

Externalities produced by economic transactions often look something like crowdforcing. For example, when people with means routinely hire tutors and coaches for their children for standardized tests, they end up skewing the results even more in their favor, thus impacting those without means in ways they frequently do not understand and may not be aware of. This can happen in all sorts of markets, even in cultural markets (fashion, beauty, privilege, skills, experience). But it is only the advent of society-wide digital data collection and analysis techniques that makes it so easy to sell your neighbor out without their knowledge and consent, and to have what is sold be so central to their lifeworld.

Dealing with this problem requires, first of all, conceptualizing it as a problem. That’s all I’ve tried to do here: suggest the shape of a problem that, while not entirely new, comes into stark relief and becomes widespread due to the availability of exactly the tools that are routinely promoted as “crowdsourcing” and “collective intelligence” and “networks.” As always, this is by no means to deny the many positive effects these tools and methods can have; it is to suggest that we are currently overly committed to finding those positive effects and not to exploring or dwelling on the negative effects, as profound as they may be. As the examples I’ve presented here show, the potential for crowdforcing effects on the whole population are massive, disturbing, and only increasing in scope.

In a time when so much cultural energy is devoted to the self, maximizing, promoting, decorating and sharing it, it has become hard to think with anything like the scrutiny required about how our actions impact others. From an ethical perspective, this is typically the most important question we can ask: arguably it is the foundation of ethics itself. Despite the rhetoric of sharing, we are doing our best to turn away from examining how our actions impact others. Our world could do with a lot more, rather than less, of that kind of thinking."

[Quote below relevant to a specific concern in my neighborhood]

"Sharing pictures of your minor children on Facebook is already an interesting enough issue. Obviously, you have the parental right to decide whether or not to post photos of your minor children, but parents likely do not understand all the ramifications of such sharing for themselves, let alone for their children, not least since none of us know what Facebook and the data it harvests will be like in 10 or 20 years. Yet an even more pressing issue occurs when people share pictures on Facebook and elsewhere of other peoples’ minor children, without the consent or even knowledge of those parents. Facebook makes it easy to tag photos with the names of people who don’t belong to it. The refrain we hear ad nauseum—“if you’re concerned about Facebook, don’t use it”—is false in many ways, among which the most critical may be that those most concerned about Facebook, who have therefore chosen not to use it, may thereby have virtually no control over not just the “shadow profile” Facebook reportedly maintains for everyone in the countries where it operates, but even what appears to be ordinary sharing data that can be used by all the data brokers and other social analytic providers. Thus while you may make a positive, overt decision not to share about yourself, and even less about the minor children of whom you have legal guardianship, others can and routinely do decide you are going to anyway."

[related to that concern: http://soheresus.com/2015/06/12/down-syndrome-genoma-copyright-infringement/ ]
davidgolumbia  crowdforcing  crowdsourcing  collaboration  access  data  2015  photography  privacy  sharingeconomy  externalities  airbnb  uber  economics  neighborhoodeffects  socialcontagion  children  photogaphy  facebook  socialmedia  internet  online  web  socialnetworks 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Worker Protections? There’s No App for That | Al Jazeera America
"The tech-driven gig economy is running afoul of employee rights

One Florida man’s unemployment claim could help take down a unicorn.

In April, Darrin McGillis filed for unemployment benefits from Uber, claiming that he was unable to continue driving for the company after his vehicle was damaged. Uber is already facing a handful of lawsuits alleging that drivers should be classified, treated and paid as employees, but McGillis effectively jumped the line. With his claim approved by the state, he is effectively Uber’s first employee driver — and a forerunner of likely more legal trouble to come for the growing app-based service economy that relies on legions of underpaid and underprotected contract workers in order to boost their profits.

The companies of the gig economy, the on-demand economy, the 1099 economy — whatever you want to call it — have proved the most financially successful and most ethically and legally vexing of Silicon Valley’s recent startup surge. The apps may be new, but the contract work arrangement keeping these companies humming is hardly a unique or recent innovation. Hiring contractors to lower tax and legal liabilities has been a business strategy for decades. Taxi drivers were freelancers long before Uber disrupted personal vehicle travel, and they joined blue- and white-collar freelance workers across a variety of industries, from home health aides to truck drivers to engineers.

Potential class-action lawsuits like the ones pending against Lyft and Uber in California may chasten the fast-growing app-based service economy and raise awareness of worker misclassification. But the other millions of freelancers who bear the higher cost of independence with few if any of the protections that come from having a staff job will be as precarious as ever without reforms.

[Timeline]

It’s difficult to quantify freelance work when no one seems to agree what qualifies as such. The Freelancers Union claims there are 43 million independent workers in the U.S., while the Bureau of Labor Statistics counts only 14 million. Depending on whether you include temps, on-call workers and part-time workers, these numbers can change greatly — 15 to 35 percent of the labor force. Regardless of the criteria, this population is steadily increasing.

One reason is companies like Uber. A freelance labor model allows companies to keep tax costs down and prevents workers from unionizing, since they are not protected by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. Since 1987, the Internal Revenue Service has used a 20-point checklist to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, but the list still leaves loopholes and room for interpretation. Long before the sharing economy became San Francisco’s fever dream, federal and state agencies were cracking down on employee misclassification. A Gawker staffer made waves when she successfully received unemployment after being laid off, despite having been considered a freelancer for the news and gossip website. Not long after, workers won lawsuits against FedEx, Lowe’s and a long list of strip clubs. A suit against Google is pending.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Freelancers Union and other organizations say most contract workers are wholly satisfied with their freelance arrangements, according to their informal surveys. Proponents of the shift away from traditional employment claim freelancing’s growing popularity is due to young people embracing entrepreneurial work as opposed to traditional careers. There remains a prevailing sense that independent work is the true American dream — even though it will probably prevent you from achieving that other true American dream, homeownership, because banks tend to turn down mortgage applications from the self-employed.

Last year more than 23 million people declared self-employment income, with median earnings totaling well under $25,000, compared with median employee income of more than $28,000. Corporate entrepreneurship is rewarded with lower tax rates, but the self-employed enjoy none of those benefits, instead paying an additional 7.5 percent in income tax compared with employees. They cannot qualify for an earned income tax credit. They have no guarantee of equal protection under laws mandating minimum wages, sick leave or family leave, nor do they have protection against workplace discrimination, harassment or injury, unless they prevail in a lawsuit.

[Employee and contractor]

Uber and other companies may mischaracterize the nature of their workers’ independence, but many other contractors clearly don’t meet the Internal Revenue Service’s definition of “employee.”

This loophole is not in the spirit of upholding hard-fought labor protections or fostering American entrepreneurship. The contract arrangement that supposedly empowers millions of American workers is actually crippling them. While misclassification lawsuits may do much to help workers at some companies, they do nothing to reform employment law written and implemented in a different era of work.

Uber faces a strong case from thousands of their “freelance” workers who look just like employees. But the company is right about one thing: Our laws weren’t written with this economy in mind. As long as there is money to be saved by shifting risk and responsibility to workers, corporations will do it. Laws protecting workers must be uncoupled from employers. Even if work is flexible, rights never should be."
labor  uber  sharingeconomy  unions  employment  susiecagle  2015  freelancing  contractwork  economic  security  socialsafetynet  legal 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Meet the lawyer taking on Uber and the rest of the on-demand economy | Fusion
"If cases like Liss-Riordan’s are successful, on-demand companies would have to pay overtime, deductions from wages, and, in California, the expenses incurred by their service providers. Those costs would mount into the millions, and proponents of the on-demand economy worry that they could force successful companies out of business.

“Our community cares about flexibility and setting their own hours,” said Fiona Ramsey, the director of communications for Peers, an advocacy group for the on-demand economy. She added: “We worry the share economy will cease to exist if these cases are successful.”

That worry may be exaggerated, however. Deep-pocketed companies like Uber, which has raised nearly $5 billion in venture capital since launching, could surely afford the additional expense of putting drivers on its payroll. And several on-demand companies, such as the house cleaning start-up MyClean and the food delivery service Munchery, already treat their workers as W-2 employees. These companies’ labor costs are higher than their 1099-dependent rivals, but they get additional benefits, such as being able to train their workers and hold them to consistent schedules.

Liss-Riordan thinks Uber did “a great thing for the world in terms of convenience for customers.” But she contends that the company’s insanely high valuation is based on its skirting employment responsibilities and having drivers bear the costs of its business operations. She also thinks the on-demand economy’s existential fears about the oncoming wave of class-action lawsuits are overblown.

“Uber and Lyft can survive classifying drivers as employees,” she says. “It might cost them a little more, but it’s a successful concept. It’s not going to go away because we are trying to enforce the rules.”
business  law  uber  sharingeconomy  2015  economics  employment  labor  work  compensation  shannonliss-riordan  kashmirhill 
april 2015 by robertogreco
rant of the day - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"Fantastic rant this morning from Maciej Ceglowski, creator of the invaluable Pinboard, about this new service:

“Hello Alfred Raises $10.5M To Automate Your Chores”. Part of the white-hot trend in scriptable people.
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

“Customers are assigned their own home manager, also called an Alfred, and those nameless managers take care of the work”
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

I’ve seen luxury apartments with a built-in “servant call” button resembling a doorbell, but I never expected the world wide web to get one
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

A nameless, fungible class of domestic workers is antithetical to a democratic society. That’s what undocumented immigrants are for
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

Next up: on-demand service that offshores your guilt about creating, enabling and participating in a new Gilded Age
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) April 14, 2015

The chief reason I keep arguing with Ned O'Gorman about whether things can want — latest installment here — is that I think the blurring of lines between the agency of animals (especially people) and the agency of made objects contributes to just this kind of thing: if we can script the Internet of Things why not script people too? Once they're scripted they want what they've been scripted to do. (Obviously O'Gorman doesn't want to see that happen any more than I do: our debate is about the tendencies of terms, not about substantive ethical and political questions.)"
alanjacobs  nedo'gorman  maciejceglowski  labor  inequality  iot  internetofthings  2015  helloalfred  alfred  servants  gildedage  siliconvalley  californianideology  domesticworkers  distancing  othering  taskrabbit  sharingeconomy  outsourcing  chores  homemaking  domesticwork  ethics  agency  capitalism  latecapitalism  maciejcegłowski 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 101
"Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for [http://www.jessestommel.com/blog/files/dear-chronicle.html ] these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.
Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes [http://blog.ayjay.org/uncategorized/surveillance-and-care/ ], we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds [http://robhorningtni.tumblr.com/post/112618248845/your-permanent-record ]:
I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

We confuse individuals’ acts of (self-)documentation with structural change and justice. We confuse the “sharing economy” for the latter as well. According to Evgeny Morozov:
The citizens, who are not yet fully aware of these dilemmas, might eventually realise that the actual choice we are facing today is not between the market and the state, but between politics and non-politics. It’s a choice between a system bereft of any institutional and political imagination – where some permutation of hackers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is the default answer to every social problem – and a system, where explicitly political solutions that might question who – citizens, firms, the state – ought to own what, and on what terms, are still part of the conversation.

It doesn’t help that so many of these narratives comes from “a town without history,” as Mike Caulfield observes in “People Have the Star Trek Computer Backwards.”

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:450933ec9018 ]
audreywatters  alanjacobs  robhorning  evgenymorozov  2015  surveillance  care  education  edtech  mikecaulfield  data  datacollection  management  scientificmanagement  self-knowledge  caring  permanentrecords  permanentrecord  records  justice  socialhustice  hierarchy  patriarchy  siliconvalley  edreform  technosolutionism  politics  policy  control  power  citizenship  civics  legibility  documentation  assessment  accountability  sharingeconomy  jessestommel  innovation  disruption  disruptiveinnovation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Google and tech’s elite are living in a parallel universe | John Naughton | Comment is free | The Guardian
"The gap between the richly rewarded few of tech firms and banks and the rest of us is growing wider. Blame the digital revolution"



"Someone once observed that the difference between Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher was that whereas Thatcher believed that she was always right, Blair believed not only that he was right but also that he was good. Visitors to the big technology companies in California come away with the feeling that they have been talking to tech-savvy analogues of Blair. They are fired with a zealous conviction that they are doing great stuff for the world, and proud of the fact that they work insanely hard in the furtherance of that goal. The fact that they are richly rewarded for their dedication is, one is given to believe, incidental.

The guys (and they are mostly guys) who manage these good folk are properly respectful of their high-IQ charges. Chief among them is Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and a man who takes his responsibilities seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he co-authored a book with his colleague Jonathan Rosenberg on the care and maintenance of these precious beings. Dr Schmidt objects to the demeaning term – “knowledge workers” – that economists have devised for them. Google employees, he tells us, are much, much more impressive than mere knowledge workers: they are “smart creatives”.

In the opinion of their chairman, these wunderkinder are very special indeed. They are “not averse to taking risks”, for example. Nor are they “punished or held back when those risky initiatives fail”. They are “not hemmed in by role definitions or organisational structures”. And “they don’t keep quiet when they disagree with something”. And so on. Altogether, they are an admirable body of men and women – mostly men (70%), admittedly, but, hey, what’s a little gender imbalance in a brave new world.

Dr Schmidt’s smart creatives work all the hours that God sends, and then some. They are, to use his term, “overworked in a good way”. The concept of work-life balance can, he thinks, “be insulting to smart, dedicated employees”, for whom work is an important part of life, not something to be separated. The best corporate cultures, he thinks, “invite and enable people to be overworked in a good way, with too many interesting things to do both at work and at home”.

All of which no doubt makes perfect sense if you’re running an outfit like Google. But it also highlights the extent to which our world is bifurcating into parallel universes. In one – that populated by technology companies, investment banks, hedge funds and other elite institutions – people are over-stimulated, appreciated, overworked (but in a “good way”, of course) and richly rewarded. Meanwhile, in the other universe, people are under-stimulated, overworked and poorly rewarded. And the gap between the two universes appears to be widening, not narrowing every time Moore’s Law ratchets up another notch in computing power.

Which is why we need to make a connection between what those smart creatives in California and elsewhere are creating and what is happening in the real world. In that domain, the level of economic inequality has attained staggering proportions for reasons that Thomas Piketty set out in his celebrated book Capital in the 21st Century.

Although there have been lots of detailed arguments about Piketty’s work, his central proposition – that in the absence of special circumstances such as war or redistributive taxation, the rate of return to capital exceeds the rate of return to labour – is both simple and obvious. What it means is that if your wealth involves ownership of capital assets (like company shares), then you will inexorably get richer at compound rates.

One of the oddest things about the furore surrounding Piketty’s book was that almost nobody talked about the role of technology in all this. Specifically, there was little discussion of the strange coincidence that the recent catastrophic rise in levels of inequality has coincided neatly with the digital revolution.

When you think about it, it’s clear that this isn’t just a random correlation. The digital revolution is driving inequality, not reducing it. That’s because the technology has certain characteristics (zero marginal returns, network effects and technological lock-in, to name just three) which confer colossal power on corporations that have mastered the technology. In the process it confers vast wealth on those who own them.

But that wealth isn’t shared with the users of the platforms operated by those corporations: most of the work that generates revenues for Facebook or Google is done by unpaid workers – you and me. And folks who work in paid occupations powered by those platforms – Uber drivers, Amazon warehouse workers, to name just two – are not sharing in the wealth it generates for their owners either. Like Google’s smart creatives, these people are also overworked. But not in that “good way” advocated by Dr Schmidt."
economics  johnnaughton  inequality  2015  google  thomaspiketty  uber  labor  wealth  digital  power  sharingeconomy 
february 2015 by robertogreco
▶ Permanently Temporary: The Truth About Temp Labor (Full Length) - YouTube
"Temp labor is one of the fastest growing industries in the US. Increasingly, temp workers are part of a business strategy to keep costs down and profits high. From mega-retailers to mom-and-pop shops, temps are hired to do some of the hardest and most dangerous jobs. While more and more of the American workforce is comprised of temporary workers, they're largely hidden from public view. Many of these workers stay silent, often having their livelihoods threatened if they speak out. Wanting to get a glimpse of this invisible workforce, VICE News traveled across the country, scouring warehouses, temp agencies, and temp towns in search of the people, who make our world of same day delivery possible.

For more from VICE News on the plight of temp labor in the US, read "A Modern Day Harvest of Shame" here: https://news.vice.com/article/the-modern-day-harvest-of-shame

This story was developed in collaboration with reporting by Propublica -- http://www.propublica.org/series/temp-land "

[Also here: http://www.vice.com/video/permanently-temporary-the-truth-about-temp-labor-full-length ]
economics  us  gigeconomy  labor  work  temporaryworkers  sharingeconomy  templabor  amzon 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Gig Economy Won't Last Because It's Being Sued To Death | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
"If Uber, Lyft, and others don't stop relying on contract workers, business could crumble. Is it time for a new definition of employee?"
2015  uber  sharingeconomy  labor  business  work  employment  freelancing  amazon  amazonturk  handy  sarahkessler  lyft 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Policy Network - The new 'New Deal'? Sharing responsibility in the sharing economy
"New peer-to-peer ‘sharing’ platforms have the potential to boost living standards across the many countries which they span. But as the boundaries between the personal and commercial blur, these radical innovations can also undermine hard-fought consumer and employee protections. Governments and the market need to share responsibility for developing a new social safety net. Peer-to-peer platforms in particular have both a moral and a business imperative to protect the providers and consumers of their services"
sharingeconomy  work  labo  safetynet  socialsafetynet  2014  economics  collectivism  government  responsibility  arunsundararajan  capitalism  uber  freelancing 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Robert Reich: Why Work Is Turning Into a Nightmare | Alternet
"How would you like to live in an economy where robots do everything that can be predictably programmed in advance, and almost all profits go to the robots' owners?

Meanwhile, human beings do the work that's unpredictable - odd jobs, on-call projects, fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any and all hours - and patch together barely enough to live on.

Brace yourself. This is the economy we're now barreling toward.

They're Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, and Airbnb hosts. They include Taskrabbit jobbers, Upcounsel's on-demand attorneys, and Healthtap's on-line doctors.

They're Mechanical Turks.

The euphemism is the "share" economy. A more accurate term would be the "share-the-scraps" economy.

New software technologies are allowing almost any job to be divided up into discrete tasks that can be parceled out to workers when they're needed, with pay determined by demand for that particular job at that particular moment.

Customers and workers are matched online. Workers are rated on quality and reliability.

The big money goes to the corporations that own the software. The scraps go to the on-demand workers.

Consider Amazon's "Mechanical Turk." Amazon calls it "a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence."

In reality, it's an Internet job board offering minimal pay for mindlessly-boring bite-sized chores. Computers can't do them because they require some minimal judgment, so human beings do them for peanuts -- say, writing a product description, for $3; or choosing the best of several photographs, for 30 cents; or deciphering handwriting, for 50 cents.

Amazon takes a healthy cut of every transaction.

This is the logical culmination of a process that began thirty years ago when corporations began turning over full-time jobs to temporary workers, independent contractors, free-lancers, and consultants.

It was a way to shift risks and uncertainties onto the workers - work that might entail more hours than planned for, or was more stressful than expected.

And a way to circumvent labor laws that set minimal standards for wages, hours, and working conditions. And that enabled employees to join together to bargain for better pay and benefits.

The new on-demand work shifts risks entirely onto workers, and eliminates minimal standards completely.

In effect, on-demand work is a reversion to the piece work of the nineteenth century - when workers had no power and no legal rights, took all the risks, and worked all hours for almost nothing.

Uber drivers use their own cars, take out their own insurance, work as many hours as they want or can - and pay Uber a fat percent. Worker safety? Social Security? Uber says it's not the employer so it's not responsible.

Amazon's Mechanical Turks work for pennies, literally. Minimum wage? Time-and-a half for overtime? Amazon says it just connects buyers and sellers so it's not responsible.

Defenders of on-demand work emphasize its flexibility. Workers can put in whatever time they want, work around their schedules, fill in the downtime in their calendars.

"People are monetizing their own downtime," says Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University's business school.

But this argument confuses "downtime" with the time people normally reserve for the rest of their lives.

There are still only twenty-four hours in a day. When "downtime" is turned into work time, and that work time is unpredictable and low-paid, what happens to personal relationships? Family? One's own health?

Other proponents of on-demand work point to studies, such as one recently commissioned by Uber, showing Uber's on-demand workers to be "happy."

But how many of them would be happier with a good-paying job offering regular hours?

An opportunity to make some extra bucks can seem mighty attractive in an economy whose median wage has been stagnant for thirty years and almost all of whose economic gains have been going to the top.

That doesn't make the opportunity a great deal. It only shows how bad a deal most working people have otherwise been getting.

Defenders also point out that as on-demand work continues to grow, on-demand workers are joining together in guild-like groups to buy insurance and other benefits.

But, notably, they aren't using their bargaining power to get a larger share of the income they pull in, or steadier hours. That would be a union - something that Uber, Amazon, and other on-demand companies don't want.

Some economists laud on-demand work as a means of utilizing people moreefficiently.

But the biggest economic challenge we face isn't using people more efficiently. It's allocating work and the gains from work more decently.

On this measure, the share-the-scraps economy is hurtling us backwards."
robertreich  2015  economics  sharingeconomy  society  work  labor  ondemand  uber  efficiency  unions  insurance  benefits  downtime  responsibility  wages  employment  freelance  regulation 
february 2015 by robertogreco
LOL Everything Matters When Everyone Is Connected - BuzzFeed News
"The guilt you feel when you take part in the on-demand economy may be justified."

Our washing machine is broken. Or, at least, the pipe it drains into is. Despite all my attempts to fix it, crawling around on my belly with a pipe wrench and a plumber’s snake, all I have to show is a broken PVC pipe, a minor chemical burn, and a mountain of laundry that our family of four has piled up. So last night, I put in an order with Washio, an on-demand laundry service. And this morning, an extremely nice and highly professional woman showed up at our door, promptly at 7 a.m., took away our laundry, and left us with a chocolate pastry from a bakery in Oakland.

It was amazing, and I feel conflicted about it.

It’s the same kind of feeling I have whenever I take an Uber, or Lyft, or use Instacart to pick up groceries, rather than going myself. I found myself apologizing to the woman who picked up our laundry. “Our washing machine is broken,” I explained. “Well that’s good business for us,” she countered. And it’s true, I guess. Why wouldn’t she be happy to have work? A job is a job when you need one.

And yet my guilt stems not from whatever her own personal experience is as much as it does the remaking of the great American economy into a vast labor market of contract workers — the 1099 economy — whose days are dictated by the whims of mobile software and whose job security is often determined by the numerical star rankings of a capricious and harried market.

I spent a decade freelancing, a 1099 contractor, and it was fantastic. I had a freedom most people could only dream of. There was no boss to answer to other than myself. I made decent money too, not initially, but I hustled and worked hard and made it. The American way.

Of course, I had my wife, a nurse, to lean on financially during the lean times, and my parents to fall back on failing that. Thanks to a year-to-year magazine contract, I even had the luxury of a steady paycheck during much of that time. But I banked almost no money for my retirement during those years, even when times were fat. And as soon as our first child was born, you’d better believe I went out and got a motherfucking 9-to-5. One that would make sure I had a safety net if I were suddenly unable to work. One that came with a modicum of security in case of unforeseen unemployment, and health benefits, and even life insurance — because we are all going to die. You are going to die.

And the person who drives your Uber will die. And the person who brings your groceries from Instacart will die. And the person from Homejoy who cleans your home is going to die. And the person who shows up in a TaskRabbit T-shirt and hangs your TV and assembles the Ikea bed that’s been sitting in a box in your garage for the past three months is going to die. Or maybe get hurt and leave the workforce. Or maybe the start up they work for will fail, as startups often do.
How are we, as a society, going to deal with that? Going to deal with them? What will it mean if we completely remake our workforce of laborers into contractors without the myriad benefits we associate with full-time employment? Who ultimately benefits when they don’t?

Obviously the companies who employ (or, don’t employ) contractors benefit. So too do their payment processors. Even the consumer does. That’s certain. Here in San Francisco, where a corrupt and broken taxi system has long failed us, it’s hard not to love Lyft and Uber’s amazing degree of efficiency, both in how well they work and how little they cost, comparatively.

Yet the most ruthlessly efficient (and pleasurable!) delivery mechanisms are not always the ones that are best for us over time. Heroin, injected intravenously, is amazing. But it’s probably better for most of us to take a Tylenol 3 for our pain. Yes, we can all be connected via apps and services now, but first, we are all connected as a society.

There are forces at work to put the brakes on all this. Current lawsuits in San Francisco, for example, seek to have Uber and Lyft drivers reclassified as employees. Because there are rules about who is a contractor, and who is not. We are a nation of law, and the law is not something arbitrary, given to us by God or kings, but rather it is something we have agreed upon, and that we can remake. Laws can be rewritten. And often it is the wealthy and powerful who write them. David Plouffe wasn’t hired for his insight into complex dispatch systems.

Washio charges $1.60 per pound for wash-and-fold laundry. The wash-and-fold a few blocks away costs $1.25 for the same. The machines at a nearby laundry are $2 to wash and another $2 to dry, and I estimate it would take me about three hours all told to get our great heaping mass of laundry washed, dried, and folded up into piles sorted by size and function. When you factor in our children and our jobs and the pipe repair awaiting me in my basement, the extra cost I’m paying to have someone come get it and do it for me seems negligible. It seems like a bargain. The devil always does."
via:alexismadrigal  labor  work  sharingeconomy  onedemand  washio  freelancing  society  inequality  security  capitalism  uber 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Internal exile — authentic sharing
"If not for the burden of ownership, then, consumers would conceivably try on and discard the identities implied by products without much thought or sense of risk. They would forgo the “brand community” for a more fluid sense of identity. Perhaps they would anchor their identity in something other than products while enjoying the chance to play around with personae, by borrowing and not owning the signifying resonances of products.

Perhaps that alternate anchor for the self could be precisely the sort of human interaction that exceeds the predictable, programmable exchanges dictated by the market, and its rational and predictable incentives. This is the sort of interaction that people call “authentic.” (Or we could do away with anchors for the self altogether and go postauthentic — have identity only in the process of “discarding” it. )

Sharing companies do nothing to facilitate that sort of interaction; indeed they thrive by doing the opposite. (Authenticity marketing does the same thing; it precludes the possibility of authenticity by co-opting it.) They subsume more types of interaction and exchange to market structures, which then they mask by handling all the money for the parties involved. This affords them the chance to pretend to themselves that the exchange has stemmed from some “meaningful” rather than debased and inauthentic commercial connection, all while keeping a safe distance from the other party.

Sharing companies and brand communities mediate social relations and make them seem less risky. Actual community is full of friction and unresolvable competing agendas; sharing apps’ main function is to eradicate friction and render all parties’ agenda uniform: let’s make a deal. They are popular because they do what brand communities do: They allow people to extract value from strangers without the hassle of having to dealing with them as more than amiable robots.

When sharing companies celebrate the idea of community, they mean brand community. And if they appropriate rhetoric about breaking down the attachment to owning goods as a means of signifying identity and inclusion, it’s certainly not because they care about abolishing personal property, or pride in it. It’s because they are trying to sell their brand as an alternative to the bother of actually having to come up with a real alternative to product-based personal identity.

The perhaps ineluctable problem is that belonging to communities is hard. It is inefficient. It does not scale. It doesn’t respond predictably to incentives. It takes more work the more you feel you belong. It requires material sacrifice and compromise. It requires a faith in other people that exceeds their commercial reliability. It entails caring about people for no reason, with no promise of gain. In short, being a part of community is a total hassle but totally mandatory (like aging and dying), so that makes us susceptible to deceptive promises that claim to make it easy or avoidable, that claim to uniquely exempt us. That is the ruse of the “sharing economy”—the illusion it crates that everyone is willing to share with you, but all you have to do is download an app."
community  robhorning  sharingeconomy  sharing  2015  communities  interaction  capitalism  identity  authenticity  consumerism  inclusion  property  personalproperty  brands  trust  uber  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality - Quartz
"There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone. First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins.

Uber was founded in 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the worst financial crisis in a generation. As the ride-sharing app has risen, so too have income disparity and wealth inequality in the United States as a whole and in San Francisco in particular. Recent research by the Brookings Institution found that of any US city, San Francisco had the largest increase in inequality between 2007 and 2012. The disparity in San Francisco as of 2012, as measured (pdf) by a city agency, was in fact more pronounced than inequality in Mumbai (pdf).

Of course, there are huge differences between the two cities. Mumbai is a significantly poorer, dirtier, more miserable place to live and work. Half of its citizens lack access to sanitation or formal housing.

Another distinction, just as telling, lies in the opportunities the local economy affords to the army of on-demand delivery people it supports. In Mumbai, the man who delivers a bottle of rum to my doorstep can learn the ins and outs of the booze business from spending his days in a liquor store. If he scrapes together enough capital, he may one day be able to open his own shop and hire his own delivery boys.

His counterpart in San Francisco has no such access. The person who cleans your home in SoMa has little interaction with the mysterious forces behind the app that sends him or her to your door. The Uber driver who wants an audience with management can’t go to Uber headquarters; he or she must visit a separate “driver center.”

There is no denying the seductive nature of convenience—or the cold logic of businesses that create new jobs, whatever quality they may be. But the notion that brilliant young programmers are forging a newfangled “instant gratification” economy is a falsehood. Instead, it is a rerun of the oldest sort of business: middlemen insinuating themselves between buyers and sellers.
All that modern technology has done is make it easier, through omnipresent smartphones, to amass a fleet of increasingly desperate jobseekers eager to take whatever work they can get."
economics  poverty  inequality  uber  middlemen  2014  leomirani  thomaspiketty  mumbai  sanfrancisco  sharingeconomy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy — Medium
"Let’s do justice to what we know. Platform cooperativism equals a more humane workplace equals real benefits. They say that big money talks, but I say that platform cooperativism can invigorate genuine sharing, and that it does not have to reject the market. Platform cooperativism can serve as remedy for the corrosive effects of capitalism; it can be a reminder that work can be dignified rather than diminishing for the human experience. Cooperatives are not a panacea but they could help to weave some ethical threats into the fabric of 21st century work."
sharing  sharingeconomy  economics  labor  cooperatives  cooperativism  work  treborscholz  mondragon  naomiklein  yochaibenkler  michelbauens  uber  taskrabbit 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Uber Delenda Est — Medium
"It’s hard not to conclude that Uber’s corporate “code of ethics” consists entirely of sending a public spokesperson out to lie about the unethical stuff they do.

And although Uber in recent months has become a mainstream libertarian shibboleth alongside Bitcoin — I regularly get swarmed by right-wing trolls after tweeting critically about it — it’s even begun to alienate longtime right-libertarian supporters. But how could this be? Because the company is, in the words of Reason‘s Nick Gillespie, “bedding down with regulators to screw over competitors”: “After spending years antagonizing would-be regulators, Uber is now working with them to hammer out agreements that will let the company flourish even as less-connected competitors face tougher regulations.” Uber has hired former Obama adviser David Plouffe to negotiate regulations with local governments, and has said it “needs to be regulated.” The kind of needful regulations he has in mind, it goes without saying, are those that raise the cost of entry and make it harder for little guys to compete with Uber. A good example of the specific regulatory model they have in mind is the recent ride-sharing regulations passed by Washington, D.C. — which Uber and Plouffe have applauded — that includes $1 million in liability insurance and registering with the DC cab commission.

Still don’t hate Uber? It was also a platinum vendor sponsor of the Urban Shield police conference in Oakland. Urban Shield is an annual, DHS-funded training conference for militarized police.

As loathsome as Uber is, though, its liberal and “progressive” critics miss the point more than they hit it."



"I argued six months ago that, even as Uber was unleashing creative destruction against the legacy taxicab industry, it in turn should be destroyed by a genuine open-source alternative. I echoed C4SS Director James Tuttle’s call to “hack the app, salt the service, fight the competition with better competition.” One possible action along those lines, among many, was suggested by a C4SS comrade on our email list who befriended the driver on an Uber trip: “I’ve got his number on my phone. Now we bypass Uber, call the guy and hear if he’s available to pick us up, and pay him cash.” This is something home care aides working for temp agencies do on a regular basis: cut out the middleman and make a deal directly with the customer that benefits both parties. Since, rather than being a genuine p2p service that empowers drivers and passengers to collaborate with each other, Uber has become a glorified temp agency that sets up a toll gate between driver and passenger, it should get the same treatment.

Today I repeat that call, but with far more urgency. The sooner Uber is destroyed by genuinely open-source, cooperative, free market and libertarian alternatives, the better. It’s time for Uber’s customers and drivers to destroy it from both inside and out. Its customers need to jailbreak it with an open-source app. Its drivers need to either violate their non-competition clause and go over to open-source alternatives, or organize independent union locals and go on strike inside from inside (which, as we saw in examples above, they’re already beginning to do).

Uber delenda est."
uber  labor  business  horizontality  verticality  abuse  2014  unions  journalism  competition  privacy  data  evil  sharingeconomy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why your Uber driver hates Uber - Quartz
"I am working exclusively for Uber. But they are diverting more customers to UberX—and that takes away my fare. They told me, “Go get a good vehicle.” And I have one. I now own a Lincoln Navigator.
They promised me heaven, but I haven’t gotten that. It’s only hell for now. I am actually waiting for the TLC rule. If it does happen that drivers cannot work for more than one base, Uber will go after the drivers and get their phones back. Then they are going to lose UberX drivers—and we are going to start doing okay.

When I started working with Uber, I was never free for more than five minutes. I was busy all day long. Sometimes, I just wanted to park my car and sleep. Now, I have too much time and I make less money. Well, the company has a lot of people who have downloaded the Uber app, but that doesn’t mean all of them are regularly booking cabs. So downloading the app is half reality of the statistic. I think a lot of people just try Uber once, and once they end up paying a lot of money, they don’t want to try Uber again.

Only the payment is no problem. Every Thursday, you get your check. Only once they had a problem—and we all chimed in on the internet, and we gave them our piece of mind, so they fixed the system. That’s the only good thing, because I don’t know if they want to violate labor laws since there are going to be a lot of labor laws to violate.

Today, we got an email that they will give us a discount for health insurance, with a company called Stride Health. But we can get better discounts without Uber. We can get it for $640; with Uber, it’s $680. So which is better? I can’t pick either because my wife doesn’t work, and I have two kids to support. I am the sole provider and I cannot pay $640 dollars.

However, with 10,000 drivers in group insurance, we should get a huge discount.
I bought the car in 2013. I still have car payments. When I bought this car, I wondered am I still going to be in Uber to pay this off? Because I don’t know how long am I going to be working for them; anyone can get fired with the current rating system. Even me, as a VIP driver, I am worried. There should at least be a 10-year assurance, and if not, then at least two years. And once you’re doing good, they should forget about the rating system. If Uber were the ones to be rated, they would get the lowest rating."
uber  2014  labor  ratings  fear  sharingeconomy 
november 2014 by robertogreco
How to Get Away with Uber — Matter — Medium
"The dick-swinging, the gluttony, the not-quite-lies and the full-on bullshit… All of these things, and in particular the spectacular combination of all of these things, are enough to dislike a company, and even to hate it. But it’s incredibly popular, too, because, man, if people vote with their feet — or in this case their fingers — then they keep voting, again and again, for Uber.

And that, in the end, is the real reason so many people hate Uber: Because whatever we do, we can’t stop ourselves from making it bigger and more successful and more terrifying and more necessary. Uber makes everything so easy, which means it shows us who, and what, we really are. It shows us how, whatever objections we might say we hold, we don’t actually care very much at all. We have our beliefs, our morals, our instincts. We have our dislike of douchebags, our mistrust of bad behavior. We have all that. But in the end, it turns out that if something’s 10 percent cheaper and 5 percent faster, we’ll give it all up quicker than we can order a sandwich."
uber  labor  ethics  morality  2014  efficiency  price  compromise  hypocrisy  sharingeconomy 
november 2014 by robertogreco
When Uber and Airbnb Meet the Real World - NYTimes.com
"They subscribe to three core business principles that have become a religion in Silicon Valley: Serve as a middleman, employ as few people as possible and automate everything. Those tenets have worked wonders on the web at companies like Google and Twitter. But as the new, on-demand companies are learning, they are not necessarily compatible with the real world.

The first principle is to be a middleman — or in tech lingo, a platform — connecting the people who post on YouTube with those who watch their videos, or the people who need a ride with people who will drive them. As platforms, the thinking goes, they are just connectors, with no responsibility for what happens there.

For websites, this is codified in law — they are not legally responsible for what their users publish, according to the Communications Decency Act, perhaps the most influential law in the development of the web. That is why Yelp avoids liability when people post inaccurate or abusive restaurant reviews, and why YouTube does not have to remove videos that some find offensive.

The law protects online speech, not actions people take in the offline world. Yet its ethos has permeated Silicon Valley so deeply that people invoke it even for things that happen offline.

“These folks grew up in a world where platforms are not responsible, and then when they go do stuff in the real world, they expect that to be the case,” said Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington law school who studies cyber law.

Take Airbnb’s terms of service. “Airbnb provides an online platform that connects hosts who have accommodations to rent with guests seeking to rent such accommodations,” it says. “Airbnb has no control over the conduct” of hosts or guests, the terms continue, and “disclaims all liability in this regard.”

Yet it is one thing to say a company has no control over the conduct of online commenters, and another when its users are in people’s homes or cars. Airbnb, like others, has been forced to learn the limits of its status as a platform. In response to reports of renters’ damaging and ransacking homes, it added a round-the-clock hotline for people in unsafe situations and a policy covering $1 million in loss or damages.

The second web business principle is to minimize the number of paid on-staff employees. Tech companies have long shunned the idea of hiring lots of sales staffers or call-center workers. Instead they automate ad sales with auction algorithms or offer help forums where other customers offer advice on their sites. When Instagram was acquired by Facebook, it employed 13 people; Kodak, in its heyday, employed more than 140,000.

That mentality may be why new on-demand companies are running into trouble with workers. Most of these companies avoid having employees by using contract workers. But some are wondering whether the companies are pushing the definition of contract worker too far. Uber drivers have filed class-action lawsuits in Massachusetts and California, and advocates are pushing for things like benefits and disability compensation for workers at many start-ups."
siliconvalley  labor  uber  airbnb  regulation  law  legal  2014  homejoy  middlemen  work  clairecainmiller  responsibility  sharingeconomy 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley’s Contract-Worker Problem -- NYMag
"But increasingly, critics argue that the freelance model is being abused, with workers being treated as if they were on payroll without getting any of the benefits afforded to payrolled employees. Some Silicon Valley insiders are beginning to worry that start-ups' overreliance on contract workers could come back to haunt them if they run afoul of longstanding labor rules. If that happens, these high-flying disruptors could be facing serious disruption themselves."
uber  siliconvalley  homejoy  kevinroose  labor  work  2014  airbnb  washio  handy.com  regulation  munchery  myclean  legal  spoonrocket  taskrabbit  doordash  postmates  lyft  sharingeconomy 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Understanding Fair Labor Practices in a Networked Age - FairLabor [.pdf]
"Data & Society Research Institute
datasociety.net

Understanding Fair Labor Practices in a Networked Age
by Tamara Kneese, Alex Rosenblat, and danah boyd

Data & Society Working Paper, October 8, 2014
Prepared for: Future of Work
Project supported by Open Society Foundations

Brief Description

"Internet-enabled technologies allow people to connect in unprecedented ways. Although everyday social practices are widespread and well known, these same tools are reconfiguring key aspects of work. Crowdsourcing and distributed labor technologies increasingly allow companies to outsource everything from mundane tasks(e.g., Amazon Mechanical Turk) to professional services (e.g., oDesk). Sharing economy – or peer economy – tools (e.g., Airbnb) allow people to barter goods or services or get paid for these exchanges outside of the dominant business framework. These services have enabled new forms of contract or freelance labor and reduced risk for companies; however, there is often an increase in risk for the associated laborers. At the same time, divisions between what constitutes work, hobby, and volunteerism get blurred,especially as many organizations rely on volunteer labor under the assumption that it’s mutually beneficial (e.g., blogs and journalistic enterprises that republish work or see the offer of a platform as valuable in and of itself). While all of these labor issues have unmediated precedents (e.g., free internships), technology magnifies the scale of these practices, minimizes the transactional friction, and increases the visibility of unpaid and freelance work. Collectively, this raises critical questions about what fair labor looks like in a networked world, where boundaries dissolve and existing mechanisms of labor protection do not address the varied work scenarios now available."

[via tweets by @ashedryden via @aredridel:
https://twitter.com/ashedryden/status/520645315255214080

What does fair labor look like in world where existing mechanisms of labor protection aren’t enough? http://bit.ly/1oYmZpz (v @brainwane)

“Union models don’t apply to many industries; worker protections have disappeared in sectors while protections haven’t emerged in others.”

Deleuze links the emergence of tech to controls that are less defined by structure, but as insidious as strict hierarchies in industrial era

This paper does a good job of drawing the line from hobby to unpaid labor for corporations; “feel good” peer economies, etc

“[the internet is] a feature of the cultural economy, an important unacknowledged source of value in advanced capitalist societies”

“As labor and production become increasingly immaterial, free labor becomes a central part of the digital economy.”

See: hungry advertising marketplaces masquerading as social networks, open source, etc

This free, unpaid labor sneaks in because we feel compensated for how it makes us *feel*, meanwhile others financially profit of our labor.

“At the heart of the technology industry, the incentive to work 80 hours a week is heightened by a sense of pleasure in work.”

“Work will no longer be a place, and home no longer an escape.” Sound familiar?

On Uber, TaskRabbit, etc: (paraphrased) “Employees make good money, receive full benefits. Micro-taskers the employees profit from don’t.”

As technologists who create, profit from, & make use of these new models of labor, we’re ethically obligated to understand its impact.

We’ve created an increasingly high population of underpaid, un- and underinsured, workers, expecting “happiness” to compensate them.

The dreams of technology-aided labor providing for a healthy society that can work less, is compensated fairly & equally are lost on us.

“Uber drivers in LA tell passengers that they enjoy the job in order to protect from receiving a low rating.” That’s coerced “happiness”.

When we’re looking at who is taking these “micro-tasking” jobs, they’re largely those that are un- or underemployed; high numbers of PoC

Not only are PoC facing discrimination in pay from the traditional labor market they’re being underpaid for piecemeal work to make ends meet ]
danahboyd  alexrosenblat  tamarakneese  2014  labor  work  uber  economics  crowdsourcing  airbnb  amazonmechanicalturk  taskrabbit  odesk  unions  rights  fordism  sharingeconomy  via:ariastewart  markets  compensation  internet  web  online  technology  happiness  coercion  exploitation  inequality 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Evgeny Morozov | Don't believe the hype, the 'sharing economy' masks a failing economy | Comment is free | The Observer
"But the broader problem with these optimistic, utopian tales is that they rationalise the pathologies of the current political and economic system, presenting them as our conscious lifestyle choices. It's nice to be in a position to choose between renting and owning but this is a choice that many people simply do not get to make, settling on "renting" as a default option.

Given vast youth unemployment, stagnating incomes, and skyrocketing property prices, today's sharing economy functions as something of a magic wand. Those who already own something can survive by monetising their discomfort: for example, they can earn cash by occasionally renting out their apartments and staying with relatives instead. Those who own nothing, on the other hand, also get to occasionally enjoy a glimpse of the good life – built entirely on goods they do not own.

The supposed environmental benefits of the sharing economy are likewise laughable: while we are asked to share our cars with neighbours – it's cheaper and greener! – the rich keep enjoying their yachts, limos and private jets, all while the real polluters – oil companies and other industrial giants – get away with even worse offences.

There's no denying that the sharing economy can – and probably does – make the consequences of the current financial crisis more bearable. However, in tackling the consequences, it does nothing to address the causes. It's true that, thanks to advances in the information technology, some of us can finally get by with less – chiefly, by relying on more effective distribution of existing resources. But there's nothing to celebrate here: it's like handing everybody earplugs to deal with intolerable street noise instead of doing something about the noise itself.

Sensors, smartphones, apps: these are our generation's earplugs. That we no longer notice how thoroughly they banish anything that even smacks of politics from our lives is itself a telling sign: deafness – to injustice and inequality but, above all, to our own dire state of affairs – is the price we'll pay for this dose of immediate comfort."
evgenymorozov  economics  sharing  politics  policy  sharingeconomy  2014  uber  autoshare  airbnb  taskrabbit  lyft  renting  inequality  injustice 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Against Sharing | Jacobin
"“Sharing economy” companies like Uber shift risk from corporations to workers, weaken labor protections, and drive down wages."
uber  labor  sharing  economy  wages  capitalism  economics  2014  aviasher-schapiro  risk  siliconvalley  unions  sharingeconomy 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Taxi-Turned-Uber Drivers Get a New Lease on Life - YouTube
"San Diego cab companies insist they aren’t losing customers to the mobile rideshare app Uber. But they are losing money because of it.

The cash is following cabdrivers, who are making the jump to Uber in droves.

“I don’t have a customer problem. I have enough customers to fill these cabs everyday,” said Anthony Palmeri, who owns taxi dispatcher Yellow Radio Service. “My owners don’t have enough drivers to drive the taxicabs, so the cab sits idle.”

The people who own cabs, and the city permits to operate them, often don’t make their living from actually picking up passengers. Their income comes from leasing the vehicles to drivers, who pay them an average of $400 a week and take home whatever profits are left over.

By Megan Burks

Read more at Speak City Heights,
http://www.speakcityheights.org/2014/...

Video Production: Brian Myers, Media Arts Center San Diego
http://www.mediaartscenter.org/ "
sandiego  cityheights  uber  taxis  transportation  labor  2014  meganburks  sharingeconomy 
september 2014 by robertogreco
This is Uber's playbook for sabotaging Lyft | The Verge
"'Brand ambassadors' with burner phones and credit cards attempt to #shavethestache"



"Together, the interviews and documents show the lengths to which Uber will go to halt its rivals’ momentum. The San Francisco startup has raised $1.5 billion in venture capital, giving it an enormous war chest with which to battle Lyft and others. While the company’s cutthroat nature is well documented, emails from Uber managers offer new insight into the shifting tactics it uses to siphon drivers away from competitors without getting caught. It also demonstrates the strong interest Uber has taken in crushing Lyft, its biggest rival in ridesharing, which is in the midst of a national expansion.

After The Verge asked Uber for comment on its report, the company stalled for time until they could write this blog post introducing Operation SLOG to the world. "We never use marketing tactics that prevent a driver from making their living — and that includes never intentionally canceling rides," the company said.

Earlier this month, CNN reported that Uber employees around the country ordered and then canceled 5,560 Lyft rides, according to an analysis by Lyft. (Lyft arrived at this figure by cross-referencing the phone numbers of users who tried to recruit Lyft drivers to Uber with users who had previously canceled rides.) Uber flatly denied trying to sabotage its competitor: "Lyft’s claims against Uber are baseless and simply untrue," the company said.

But one Uber contractor The Verge spoke with said Lyft’s complaint had merit. "What’s simply untrue is that not only does Uber know about this, they’re actively encouraging these actions day-to-day and, in doing so, are flat-out lying both to their customers, the media, and their investors," the contractor said. Until now, the canceled Lyft rides have been understood as a kind of prank call designed to keep competitors’ drivers off the road. But interviews and internal documents suggest another reason: Uber’s recruitment program has vastly increased in size and sophistication, and recruiters cancel rides in part to avoid detection by Lyft.

The ground troops in Uber’s sabotage campaign are the company’s ambassadors, some of whom it hires through TargetCW, a San Diego-based employment agency. For the most part, ambassadors work at events or on college campuses, promoting Uber as a cheap and easy way of getting around town. The primary goal is to recruit riders, not drivers, and Uber calls the activity "slanging." But since at least mid-summer, some brand ambassadors in New York have been turning their talents against Lyft. Using Uber-provided iPhones and credit cards, the contractors hail rides, strike up conversations with their drivers, and attempt to sign them up before they arrive at their destination. (In other cities recruiters travel with "driver kits" that include iPhones and everything else a driver needs to get started on Uber; ambassadors were told New York State does not allow this.) Compensation varies, but contractors can earn a $750 commission for successfully recruiting a single new driver to Uber, according to a contractor."
uber  lyft  2014  business  sharingeconomy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
In the Sharing Economy, Workers Find Both Freedom and Uncertainty - NYTimes.com
"Piecemeal labor is hardly a new phenomenon. But as expedited by technology and packaged as apps, it has taken on a shinier veneer under new rubrics: the sharing economy, the peer economy, the collaborative economy, the gig economy.

Gigs hold out the prospect of self-management and variety, with workers taking on diverse assignments of their choice and carving out their own schedules. Rather than toiling at the behest of some faceless corporation, they work for their peers.

“Providers in the peer economy really value the independence and flexibility; for lots of people, it has been transformational,” says Shelby Clark, the founder of RelayRides, a car-sharing marketplace, “You meet great, interesting people. You have great stories.”

Certainly, it’s a good deal for consumers. Peer marketplaces democratize luxury services by making amateur chauffeurs, chefs and personal assistants available to perform occasional work once largely dominated by full-time professionals. Venture capital firms seem convinced.

Uber has raised more than $1.5 billion from investors; Lyft has raised $333 million; and TaskRabbit, $38 million. Part of the attraction for investors is that the companies can avoid huge employee payrolls by effectively functioning as labor brokers.

If these marketplaces are gaining traction with workers, labor economists say, it is because many people who can’t find stable employment feel compelled to take on ad hoc tasks. In July, 9.7 million Americans were unemployed, and an additional 7.5 million were working part-time jobs because they could not find full-time work, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are no definitive statistics on how many people work in the gig economy. But according to a report from MBO Partners, a company that provides consulting services to independent contractors, about 17.7 million Americans last year worked more than half time as independent contributors, among them project workers.

With piecemeal gigs easier to obtain than long-term employment, a new class of laborer, dependent on precarious work and wages, is emerging. In place of the “proletariat,” Guy Standing, a labor economist, calls them the “precariat.”"



"Technology has made online marketplaces possible, creating new opportunities to monetize labor and goods. But some economists say the short-term gig services may erode work compensation in the long term. Mr. Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argues that online labor marketplaces are able to drive down costs for consumers by having it both ways: behaving as de facto employers without shouldering the actual cost burdens or liabilities of employing workers.

“In a weak labor market, there’s not much of a floor on what employers, or quasi employers, can get away with,” Mr. Baker contends. “It could be a big downward pressure on wages. It’s a bad story.”

Labor activists say gig enterprises may also end up disempowering workers, degrading their access to fair employment conditions.

“These are not jobs, jobs that have any future, jobs that have the possibility of upgrading; this is contingent, arbitrary work,” says Stanley Aronowitz, director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “It might as well be called wage slavery in which all the cards are held, mediated by technology, by the employer, whether it is the intermediary company or the customer.”"



"Peer-economy experts and executives recognize that many gig workers are laboring largely without a safety net. Mr. Clark, the industry veteran who founded RelayRides, reels off a list of lacunas: health insurance, retirement saving plans, tax withholding and even the kind of camaraderie and mentoring that can be available in full-time office jobs.

“Looking at this as a new paradigm of employment, which I think it is, the question is, What are you giving up?” Mr. Clark says. “At the end of the day, there’s a metalayer of support services that is missing.”

He predicts that new businesses will soon arise to cater to the needs of project workers: “There are opportunities to focus on providers, finding ways to make it easier, more stable and less scary to earn in the peer economy.”

TaskRabbit has started offering its contractors access to discounted health insurance and accounting services. Lyft has formed a partnership with Freelancers Union, making its drivers eligible for the advocacy group’s health plan and other benefit programs.

That may not be enough. Dr. Standing, the labor economist, says workers need formal protections to address the power asymmetries inherent in contingent work. International rules, he says, could endow gig workers with basic entitlements — like the right to organize and the right to due process should companies seek to remove them from their platforms.

“There should be codes of good practice at an international level that all companies should be required to sign,” he said."
labor  economics  uber  taskrabbit  lyft  sidecar  2014  work  uncertainty  freelancing  fiverr  postmates  favor  instacart  delivery  transportation  precariat  unions  precarity  stanleyaronowitz  socialsafetynet  sharingeconomy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Seventy Two: Symptom Masquerading As Disruption (2); The Model Is The Modeled; Labour Not Employment; Superstar Ratings, Here We Go; Not Swarm
"John V Willshire's observation, that I mentioned on Twitter kind of blew my mind. Now, John *has* studied economics, and the point he made was this: this "stack" view of people - that there are those who now think of people as virtualised substitutable AWS EC2 instances that can be activated, spun up, assigned a parcel of work, and then demobilised, "is the way that economists have always liked to think of people anyway - little atoms of meat who must behave in predictable ways."

Yes, OK, so what we have is our humans as rational actors and, in a sense, what Uber and Airbnb have done is not necessarily produced an API that controls the world, but an API that instead controls other humans. We reach out and use these services, and our requests get translated, mediated, into instructions for other humans to perform for us. You can see a sort of spectrum-disorder response to this in Hacker News comments where occasionally someone will call for an even better version of Uber where there is literally no need to interact or converse with your driver at all, and essentially the human is totally abstracted away behind a piece of glass-fronted interface.

But John's *best* point for me, was when he said:

"What if rather than being a way to describe the world, economics has unwittingly become a way to proscribe the world. Then we're fucked."

Abstract it away and it's kind of saying this: a model of a subject that is so successful at describing the subject that the subject takes on the attributes of the model. The model becomes the thing being modeled.

This is a thing, now. Seeing the world as addressable stacks. A kind of mankind's dominion over a computer-addressable, insructable directable world. There was someone at work who got super excited about "an API for the world!" and I think that's kind of the problem for me: an API for the world abstracts the world so that you can deal with it and manipulate it, which is great, but the thing is we have a super high bandwidth low-latency interface for the world that's super multi-modal. And I think it's fair to say that our APIs for the world right now are really coarse and in that way, treat the objects (note! objects! Not people!) that they interact with in a necessarily coarse way. And humans aren't coarse. Humans are many splendored things.

And maybe this is part of the whole "design with empathy" mini-crusade that I'm on. Sure, APIs that allow you to instruct humans to do things like Uber and Airbnb are successful right now, but I'm questioning whether they're successful good, or successful because of a symptom of changes in the labour market, or, honestly, a combination of the two. And, you know, first attempt at providing an API layer for humans that's more nuanced, I think, than Mechanical Turk, which I should've referenced earlier. But I like to think that an empathic API that's more considerate of humans will do better than one that is less considerate. Remember this, hackers of the Bay Area: you do not like being thought of as replaceable resource units, and there aren't many people who think "yeah, Human Resources is totally the best name for that department". "
danhon  johnwillshire  2014  economics  obseroreffect  modeling  empathy  humans  dehumanization  systemsthinking  systems  capitalism  worldbuilding  internet  humanresources  gr  uber  airbnb  abstraction  scale  disruption  models  shrequest1  sharingeconomy 
may 2014 by robertogreco
What I’m working on lately: Practices of the minimum viable utopia (long) | Speedbird
"In the fusion of each of these three archetypal processes, el Campo de Cebada, Godsbanen and Unto This Last, we can see the outlines of something truly radical and terribly exciting beginning to resolve. What can be made out, gleaming in the darkness, is a — partial, incomplete, necessarily insufficient, but hugely important — way of responding to the disappearance of meaningful jobs from our cities, as well as all the baleful second-order effects that attend that disappearance.

When apologists for the technology industry trumpet the decontextualized factoid that each “tech” job ostensibly creates five new service positions as a secondary effect, what they neglect to mention is that the lion’s share of those jobs will as a matter of course prove to be the kind of insecure, short-term, benefits-lacking, at-or-close-to-minimum-wage positions that typify the contemporary service sector. This sort of employment can’t come anywhere close to the (typically unionized) industrial-sector jobs of the twentieth century in their capacity to bind a community together, either in the income and benefits they produce by way of compensation, in the conception of self and competence they generate in those who hold them, or in the sense of solidarity with others similarly situated that they generally evoke.

At the same time, though, like many others, I too believe it would be foolish to artifically inflate employment by propping up declining smokestack industries with public-sector subsidies. Why, for example, continue to maintain Detroit’s automobile manufacturers on taxpayer-funded life support, when their approach to the world is so deeply retrograde, their product so very corrosive environmentally and socially, their behavior so irresponsible and their management so blitheringly, hamfistedly incompetent? That which is falling should also be pushed, surely. But that can’t ethically be done until something of comparable scale has been found to replace industrial manufacturing jobs as the generator of local economic vitality and the nexus of local community.

So where might meaningful, valued, value-generating employment be found — “employment” in the deepest sense of that word? I have two ways of answering that question:

- In the immediate term, I believe in the material and economic significance of digital fabrication technologies largely using free and open-source plans, deployed in small, clean, city-center workshops, under democratic community control. While these will never remotely be of a scale to replace all the vanished industrial jobs of the past, they offer us at least one favorable prospect those industrial jobs never could: the direct production of items immediately useful and valuable in one’s own life. Should such workshops be organized in such a way as to offer skills training (perhaps for laid-off service-sector workers, elders or at-risk youth), they present a genuinely potent economic and social proposition.

There are provisos. The Surly Urbanist correctly suggests that any positions created in such an endeavor need to be good jobs, i.e. not simply minimum-wage dronework, and my friend Rena Tom also notes that the skills training involved should be something more comprehensive than a simple set of instructions on how to run a CNC milling machine — that any such course of instruction would be most enduringly valuable if it amounted to an apprenticeship first in the manual and only later the numeric working of materials. I also want to be very clear that, per the kind of inclusive decision-making processes used at el Campo de Cebada, such a workshop would have to be something a community itself collectively thinks is worth experimenting with and investing in, not something inflicted upon it by guileless technoutopians from afar.

- In the fullness of time, I believe that the use of relatively high-technology techniques to accomplish not merely the local, autonomous production of everyday objects, furnitures and infrastructures, but their refit and repair, will come to be an economically salient activity in the global North. In this I see a congelation of several existing tendencies, logics or dynamics: the ideologically-driven retreat of the State from responsibility for stewardship of the everyday environment; the accelerating attrition and degradation of the West’s dated and undermaintained infrastructures, and their concomitant need for upgrade or replacement; increasing belief in the desirability of densifying urban infill; the rising awareness in the developed world of jugaad, gambiarra and other cultures of repair, reuse and improvisation; the emergence of fabricator-enabled adaptive upcycling; the circulation of a massive stock of recyclable componentry (in the form of obsolescent structures as well as landfill-bound but effectively nondegradable consumer items), coupled to the emergence of a favorable economics of materials recovery; broader experience with and understanding of networked, horizontal and leaderless organizational structures; the creation of a robust informational commons, including repositories of freely-downloadable specifications; and finally the clear capability of online platforms to facilitate development and sharing of the necessary knowledge, maintain some degree of standardization (or at least harmonization) of practice, suggest sites where citizen repair might constitute a useful intervention, and support processes of democratic decision-making."
utopia  2014  adamgreenfield  openstudioproject  pocketsofresistance  resistance  institutforx  godbanen  aarhus  madrid  spain  españa  elcampodecebada  untothislast  london  making  makerculture  economics  production  fabrication  democracy  labor  upcycling  collectivism  collaboration  repair  furniture  agency  denmark  davidharvey  postcapitalism  sharingeconomy  sharing  libraries  lcproject  community  communities  cooperatives  anilbawa-cavia  renatom  airbnb  couchsurfing  kintsugi  seams  minimumviableutopia  douglasmeehan  idealism  practicalism  jeremyrifkin  self-reliance  murraybookchin  jugaad  fabbing  gambiarra  fixing  maintenance  cv  repairing 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Jeremy Rifkin: "The Zero Marginal Cost Society" | Authors at Google - YouTube
"In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, New York Times bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin describes how the emerging Internet of Things is speeding us to an era of nearly free goods and services, precipitating the meteoric rise of a global Collaborative Commons and the eclipse of capitalism.

Rifkin uncovers a paradox at the heart of capitalism that has propelled it to greatness but is now taking it to its death—the inherent entrepreneurial dynamism of competitive markets that drives productivity up and marginal costs down, enabling businesses to reduce the price of their goods and services in order to win over consumers and market share. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing additional units of a good or service, if fixed costs are not counted.) While economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring marginal costs to near zero, making goods and services priceless, nearly free, and abundant, and no longer subject to market forces.

Now, a formidable new technology infrastructure—the Internet of things (IoT)—is emerging with the potential of pushing large segments of economic life to near zero marginal cost in the years ahead. Rifkin describes how the Communication Internet is converging with a nascent Energy Internet and Logistics Internet to create a new technology platform that connects everything and everyone. Billions of sensors are being attached to natural resources, production lines, the electricity grid, logistics networks, recycling flows, and implanted in homes, offices, stores, vehicles, and even human beings, feeding Big Data into an IoT global neural network. Prosumers can connect to the network and use Big Data, analytics, and algorithms to accelerate efficiency, dramatically increase productivity, and lower the marginal cost of producing and sharing a wide range of products and services to near zero, just like they now do with information goods.

Rifkin concludes that capitalism will remain with us, albeit in an increasingly streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to flourish as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, says Rifkin, entering a world beyond markets where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons. --macmillan.com

About the Author: Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of twenty books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. He has been an advisor to the European Union for the past decade.

Mr. Rifkin also served as an adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security.

Mr. Rifkin is a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania where he instructs CEOs and senior management on transitioning their business operations into sustainable Third Industrial Revolution economies.

Mr. Rifkin holds a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University."
socialcommons  cooperatives  2014  jeremyrifkin  internetofthings  zeromarginalcostsociety  society  economics  sharing  sharingeconomy  consumers  prosumers  marginalcosts  markets  collaborativecommons  collaboration  capitalism  bigdata  analytics  efficiency  technology  abundance  commons  exchange  networks  qualityoflife  climatechange  google  geopolitics  biosphereconsciousness  cyberterrorism  biosphere  iot 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Library of the Future Is Here - Brian Resnick - The Atlantic Cities
"The library as a warehouse of information is an outdated concept. The library of the 21st century is a community workshop, a hub filled with the tools of the knowledge economy.

"If we can't shine in this environment, in this economy, shame on us," says Corinne Hill, the director of library system in Chattanooga, Tennessee—a system that has thoroughly migrated into the current era.

The library of the 21st century still has books, but it also has 3-D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and spaces for conducting business meetings. It offers computer coding classes. It has advanced video- and audio-production software. All things that might and individual may find too expensive but can still benefit from using."

"Backus says libraries should find instruction in the evolution of the Internet—which started as a place to post static pages and now is a thoroughly collaborative environment. "There needs to be production capabilities for true access to happen," she says. "That means the ability to create a video, the ability to learn how to make a website, to have access to the software that can create these 3-D files."

And the library's initiatives aren't just for adults; the children and teen section now has videogames, button-makers, and a sewing machine."



"As information has become easier to access, libraries are smart to bolster their physical spaces to stay relevant. And Chattanooga isn't the only city that has adopted this philosophy. The Martin Luther King Library in Washington, D.C., for instance, has a "Digital Commons," equipped with 3-D printers and a bookbinding machine. But libraries also adapt to the needs and interests of their communities. A library in Overland Park, Kan., last year offered a popular seminar in hog-butchering.

Libraries are especially apt to increase their relevance in the coming years, considering the rise of the "sharing economy," a concept arguably invented by the first libraries. The sharing economy means that instead of owning things outright, people pay to use them only when needed. Think Zipcar and Citi Bike as prime examples.

Recently, the Pew Research Center found that 90 percent of Americans would be upset if their local library closed. But the survey also found "52% of Americans say that people do not need public libraries as much as they used to because they can find most information on their own."

That's why libraries need to adapt. People want them—but want them to be better. Instead of a warehouse of information, libraries need tools for use by the commons—a Netflix of things.  

"We've been in the information business for 3,000 years," Hill says, waxing philosophical on the role of the librarian in society. "If there's anything we do well, it's deliver information, and information is knowledge. I think if anybody is positioned to help build workers for this new information age, it is the library.""
corinnehill  makerspaces  making  libraries  brianresnick  chattanooga  megbackus  hackerspaces  openstudioproject  learning  howwelearn  internet  sharing  sharingeconomy  commons  lcproject  2014 
january 2014 by robertogreco
"Self-Driving cars are the answer. But what is the question?"
"Self-driving cars are a sticking plaster over existing conditions. They actually reinforce the 'Californian Ideology' that underpins today's mobility problems: suburban sprawl, based around the possibility of lengthy car-based commutes, in turn predicated on a highly individualistic view of society. It is an entirely conservative move. Self-driving cars provide a way of changing the veneer of this system, as no-one is brave enough to suggest changing the system itself. They replace who, or what, is holding the steering wheel, but not the underlying culture that contributes to mass depression, obesity epidemics, climate change and economic crises."



"Software-enabled sharing is far more radical than simply software-enabled driving. We have seen how bike-sharing schemes are beginning to redraw our urban fabric. We can see the growth in the community garden movements. We can see how shared space systems creates a safer, more engaged way of moving around. Self-driving cars have none of these dynamics, simply using software to reinforce what are actually pre-internet ideologies.

Folding self-driving systems into car-sharing schemes, as part of a wider rethink about how we live together in cities, however? I could share that vision. So again, what is the real question that suggests self-driving cars are the solution?"
danhill  carsharing  bikesharing  googlecar  self-drivingcars  cars  transportation  2013  software  systemschange  cities  urban  urbanism  parking  sharing  sharingeconomy  publictransit 
november 2013 by robertogreco
PandoMonthly: A Fireside Chat With Sarah Lacy And Chris Sacca - YouTube
[via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4965041 relating to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/23/a-self-made-man-looks-at-how-he-made-it/ ]

[Once specific portion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViHuU6-CFDo ]

"I think, sometimes, like, arguing with libertarians can be really frustrating because, I think, it can be, um..., I think it can be intellectually lazy. And I think it can be convenient, and, in the same way that, um, you know when everything is going right it's easy to attribute it to your own success and when things are going wrong, it's because you got fucked or because you were unlucky etc., like, I think sometimes, like, the libertarian point of view can be, um..., can be rooted in a limited set of circumstances where you give yourself a little more credit than, um.., than you want, or than you are due, probably."
problemsolving  money  optimism  buckminsterfuller  wealthdistribution  incomegap  entrepreneurship  gambling  finance  decisionmaking  incentives  motivation  employment  elitism  regulation  government  traviskalanick  uber  politics  startups  women  gender  pandomonthly  sarahlacy  paternalism  economics  society  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  capitalism  2012  chrissacca  libertarianism  sharingeconomy 
december 2012 by robertogreco

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