robertogreco + uber   61

The Rise of the WeWorking Class - The New York Times
"IMAGINE YOU TRAINED an artificial intelligence on a comprehensive stock-photo set of every boutique-hotel lobby from Palm Springs to Stockholm to Milan, then connected it to a five-story 3-D printer fully furnished with pendant-dome lamps, waxy leaves and old-school hip-hop lyrics. The output would be a WeWork. So much serene, lavish and mechanical attention is allocated to every detail: the neon and the daybeds and the fiddle-leaf figs, the wallpaper and the playlists and the typefaces. The newest iteration of its ever-emergent design concept may be indebted to Luis Barragán and Carlo Scarpa, but the degree of thought and investment that goes into its terrarium construction is something its busy occupants are expected to register only as background noise. WeWorks feel voguish but never threatening; comfortable but never shabby; rousing but never intemperate; detailed but never ostentatious.

There’s also free top-shelf coffee, the sort of minor frill most office workers might take for granted in a way the self-employed never would. One premise of the company’s existence is that it’s good business to provide such minor luxuries to the otherwise unfrilled. The coffee — and the draft kombucha, which has come to supplement beer as WeWork distances itself from the frattier aspects of entrepreneurship — is, at any rate, only part of an environment engineered for felicitous exchange. This strategy is supported by narrow hallways, boxy plate-glass enclosures, distant bathrooms and centralized fruit-water dispensers, but the company’s architects never indulged the belief that if they built it, people would come. The spaces themselves are the staging ground for yoga classes, wine tastings, make-your-own-trail-mix bars and vendor workshops about how to cut cloud costs. For what remains of life outside the workplace, there are cross-promotional discounts on 1-800-Flowers.com and Crunch gym memberships.

Most of us have serious reasons to worry about the future of work, and it’s easy to object to WeWork’s thin consolations on the basis of aesthetic or moral principle. Once you get accustomed to the basic product, however, it’s hard not to find it ... pretty nice. Over the course of about a year, I stopped into locations in six or seven cities, and in each of them I sat in front of my computer alongside other people in front of their computers and felt at once marginally more productive and slightly less unmoored."



"The relentless sociability inspired by WeWork was always one of the founders’ aims, even as the composition of its membership has changed. When the company first opened in 2010, its spaces catered to entrepreneurs. The founders soon understood that the increasingly fluid and anxious labor market — its conditions exacerbated by the downturn but likely to exist in perpetuity — presented them with a much larger potential customer base. Uber and TaskRabbit and other labor-platform intermediaries positioned themselves to match those who needed something done with those who needed something to do, but they based their recruitment drives on a cynical reading of the economic mood. The subway I took to WeWork was plastered with tough-love ads from services like Fiverr, which made naked appeals to stoic virtues. (“Actually, it hasn’t all been done before”; “In doers we trust”; “Reading about starting your own business is like reading about having sex.”)

That sort of campaign felt manipulative: The platforms’ emphasis on self-reliance for the economically precarious merely disguised their rent-seeking. WeWork, by contrast, just charged rent. The company was perceptive enough to realize that disaggregated workers (or at least those of a certain class) did not want to hear that they should just kill it on their own, bro. They wanted to hear that nobody ever can. What WeWork offered was not just rhetoric — a more sympathetic description of the restless, fretful life of the deinstitutionalized worker — but true shelter from a pervasive sense of alienation. Where Fiverr issued an invitation to gladiatorial combat, WeWork promised a work environment remodeled for solace and dignity.

Thus is the business model of WeWork, recently valued at $47 billion, now only facially about commercial subletting. All its accessories serve to buttress its real product: “office culture” as a service. When people at the company try to explain that culture, they invariably resort to talk of positive energy sources and the obligation to heal the social fabric — a vocabulary traditionally associated with utopian architecture, 1980s academic communitarianism or ayahuasca experimentation. They affirm that all the ostensibly small incremental niceties add up to more than the sum of their parts, and on some level I couldn’t help agreeing. The market certainly seems to. As of this January, WeWork has 400,000 members in 425 locations in 27 countries, at least 30 percent of whom are employees of large existing businesses. This latter category has helped double that membership in only a year. Some of these enterprise customers are merely outsourcing their facilities management the way they outsource manufacturing or payroll; others anticipate the revitalization — or even wholesale procurement — of their corporate culture. The conviction behind the rapid growth of WeWork is that the office culture of the future is likely to be the culture of the future, full stop, and that it is WeWork’s special vocation to bring it to market.

THE IDEA OF “CORPORATE CULTURE,” long before it was identified and cultivated as such, emerged as a solution to the problems of the large, distributed mass-industrial firm. Ransom Olds is credited with inventing the concept of the assembly line in 1901, and it was over the following decades that businesses began to feel an imperative to address the question of what work was supposed to “mean.” This was both an internal bottom-line matter — employees who toiled in exchange for only a paycheck were difficult to retain and unlikely to prioritize efficiency or innovation — and a social one. By midcentury, large companies like the car manufacturers had come to represent the predominant institutional affiliation for legions of American men. Even if these firms had no explicit philanthropic interest in civic cohesion, they certainly had a stake in the preservation of the social order. If they could invest piecemeal labor with something like dignity, they could neutralize the political and economic threats posed by union solidarity.

What they arrived at was a generic set of strategies, applicable at any industrial organization, designed to help workers recognize the value of their personal contributions to the final product. The classic formulation of this approach was Peter Drucker’s “Concept of the Corporation”; though it’s now seen — if not much read — as a foundational text in the study of management, it reads like a sober contribution to midcentury sociology. The simplest form of recognition is advancement. Workers, Drucker believed, ought to be viewed not as exploitable resources but as human capital to be fostered, and thus provided with the training necessary to secure a path upward. Programs like project rotations — which exposed otherwise specialized employees to the breadth of company operations — should be put in place even if they seemed, in the short term, economically irrational; in the long term, they represented an investment in worker potential. Employees unlikely to advance might more gladly accept their place in the corporate scheme when given a holistic perspective on production: The maker of a car’s door hinge, for example, might be shown where his discrete, repetitive effort fits into the fully realized car.

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz defined culture as a collective act of interpretation, the stories we tell one another about ourselves in an attempt to make ongoing sense of why we do what we do. A car manufacturer could just point to a sensible Oldsmobile, something the world self-evidently needed. Because cars were public goods, corporate culture could easily borrow its energy from civic culture.

It could also borrow civic culture’s prevailing norms — and, in turn, reinforce them. The management classic “Built to Last” describes how Walt Disney, for example, did not manage a corporation so much as lord over an extended brood of subordinates, each of them expected not only to abide by the letter of company decorum but also to embody its founder’s spirit. Hourly theme-park workers were held to an imperious standard of personal upkeep: for men, no facial hair; for women, no dangly earrings or excessive makeup. As one biographer described it, “When someone did, on occasion, slip in Walt’s presence and use a four-letter word in mixed company, the result was always immediate dismissal, no matter what type of professional inconvenience the firing caused.” The people making the country’s cars could be forgiven a coarse exclamation; the people making the country’s cartoons were held to a loftier code.

As the economy shifted from industrial manufacturing to the service and knowledge sectors, it became increasingly necessary for businesses to articulate their “core purpose” as an organizational and motivational principle — and a way to differentiate “their” ethereal knowledge work from whatever it was other companies’ employees did. The separation of corporate culture in particular from general civic culture was also encouraged by the ascendancy of free-market economics; Milton Friedman told executives that their sole remit was to tend to their own shareholder garden. Shared goals, while important, ought to be strictly values-agnostic."



"Over the past year, as WeWork has been folded into what is now called the We Company — which encompasses WeGrow, its school, and WeLive, its communal housing projects — its Powered by We product has been refined and … [more]
wework  work  labor  workplace  2019  culture  gideonlewis-kraus  cliffordgeertz  economics  organization  peterdrucker  solidarity  unions  facilities  fiverr  uber  taskrabbit  business 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
TNCs and Congestion · SFCTA Prospector
"Use this map to explore changes in congestion metrics between 2010 and 2016. The tool provides the ability to look at the effects of four factors that affect congestion: changes in network capacity, changes in population, changes in employment, and changes in TNCs.
• Vehicle Hours of Delay (VHD) is a measure of the overall amount of excess time vehicles spend in congestion.
• Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is a measure of the overall amount of motor vehicle travel, as measured in distance, that occurs on the network.
• Speed is the average speed of vehicles on a given road segment during a given time period.

How to use this map
• Select a congestion metric to display it on the map.
• Explore the contributions of different factors to changes in congestion.
• Choose a time period to display.
• Click on a colored roadway segment on the map to see segment-specific information."

[via: "City Analysis: Uber, Lyft Are Biggest Contributors to Slowdown in S.F. Traffic"
https://www.kqed.org/news/11699063/city-analysis-uber-lyft-are-biggest-contributors-to-slowdown-in-s-f-traffic ]

[See also: "Study: Half of SF’s increase in traffic congestion due to Uber, Lyft"
http://www.sfexaminer.com/study-half-sfs-increase-traffic-congestion-due-uber-lyft/ ]
maps  sanfrancisco  transportation  uber  lyft  traffic  2018  2016  mapping  data  ridesharing 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Thread by @thrasherxy: "Jimmy Carter remains the one & only interesting post president from a social justice angle. Obama would have turned Habitat for Humanity […]"
[original here: https://twitter.com/thrasherxy/status/998918171791937536 ]

"Jimmy Carter remains the one & only interesting post president from a social justice angle. Obama would have turned Habitat for Humanity into an app or a "public-private partnership with Home Depot, designed to foster innovation & inspire for the next generation of homeowners!"

He'd start a student worker program by placing Starbucks in charter school cafeterias, "staffed, and managed, by students, to inspire the next generation of baristas and foster innovation in management!"

To my knowledge, Obama hasn't ever tweeted about a dead Black child killed by police or in support of BLM activists since leaving office. But he HAS donated to a Chicago youth summer jobs program (GET TO WORK, BLACK KIDS!) & applauded the Black child helping the homeless.

Worthy goals, fiiiine...but Black children don't need to work more or need more "grit," they need to be kids. And it always saddens me when he acts as though Black ppl (especially kids) need to work harder to end our own oppression & death.

Which brings me to his current phase of the post-presidency: hosting and producing "content" on Netflix. No Habitat for Humanity or teaching Sunday school for him! He'll create incremental change in the private market by creating "content" for a private network.

After he & Michelle got $65 million for their books, one might hope "my brother's keeper" might, say, wanna host a special for PBS or something public. But a neoliberal (in the sense of market "innovation" forces leading to change) in the post-presidency, Netflix makes sense.

After all, Obama installed Arnie Duncan, a neoliberal who believed in school "choice," as the pre-Betsy Devos. The Obamas didn't send their kids to Duncans' charterized Chi schools, but Obama elevated Duncan & promoted "Race to the Top" neoliberal/increasingly private schools.

THEN, Obama sent many of his White House alumni off not to public service, nor even to private industry, but to Silicon Valley upstarts focused on colonizing public goods & undermining public laws for private profit. For instance:

- Uber hired David Plouffee (Which busts public transit resources & labor regs)
With Uber's new hire, Obama alumni invade Silicon Valley: D.C. to Silicon Valley is a well-worn path.
http://fortune.com/2014/08/19/uber-plouffe-obama/


- Natalie Foster went to shill for "Share," the "front group for AirBnB (which busts housing regs)

- Michael Masserman went to Lyft
With Uber's new hire, Obama alumni invade Silicon Valley: D.C. to Silicon Valley is a well-worn path.
http://fortune.com/2014/08/19/uber-plouffe-obama/


So, it's fitting the Obamas went not to PBS but--like the depressing move of Sesame Street from PBS to HBO--took their show to Netflix.

Converting public post-presidential comms (which maybe should open to the public?) to private Netflix capitalization is on-brand-Obama.

In their Netflix press release, the Obamas wrote: "we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples."

Meaningless pabulum.

Hoping for change through cultivating & curating "voices who are able to promote greater understanding" only to Netflix subscribers is pretty status quo.

Without critique of capitalism, empire, racism, and sexism, a vague dream to "promote greater empathy" are empty.

I wish the Democratic leaders (Pelosi, Schumer, the Clintons, the Obamas) were out here barnstorming the country, railing against the facscist they've helped install. I wish they had a fraction of the rage & courage of of ADAPT and BLM.

Reading the horrific labor SCOTUS ruling, I wonder what could have been if Obama had fought his last year for his SCOTUS nominee, rather than saying, "Now let's stay calm everyone, if we're reasonable enough, they'll be reasonable, too."

Calmness hasn't helped much. And it's nauseating to see the Obamas rolling off to the bank & hiding their little bit of discourse behind a Netflix Paywall--while Hillary's hat routine seems to be the extent of her public "resistance" (cc @kath_krueger )
Hillary Clinton Did a Bit With a Russia Hat at Yale and I Want to Die
Have you felt an acute-but-nagging desire to fade back into the nothingness of the universe yet today? No? Well look no further!
https://splinternews.com/i-yearn-for-deaths-sweet-embrace-1826207903


The market is NOT the answer to every American problem. As @B_Ehrenreich wrote, the reason people are poor is NOT that they aren't educated enuf, inspired enuf, nor that they're insufficiently "innovative." Yet the Ds, just like the Rs, say it is.
Why are people poor? Because they are uneducated? No, because (1) they are paid so little for their work and (2) the pittance they are paid is quickly sucked off by landlords, credit companies, the medical industry and other predators. Solutions are obvious. [from: https://twitter.com/B_Ehrenreich/status/998571038727458816 ]


This, to me, is neoliberalism--addressing everything from market driven schools to market driven healthcare to the market driven post-presidential philanthropy (Clinton Global Inititiative, Obama media empire) to the "choice" of the market.

One of the unfortunate meeting points in thinking about Black liberation & in anti-Blackness is questioning the Obama's hauling of tens (more?) of millions in the post-presidency. White supremacists don't want him to have that money.

But I, too, have questioned his money haul, particularly in the face of his public giving going first to Black kids who work summer jobs & while raking it in to talk to the banks who bankrupt Black people...
Barack Obama's $400,000 speaking fees reveal what few want to admit | Steven W Thrasher
His mission was never racial or economic justice. It’s time we stop pretending it was
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/01/barack-obama-speaking-fees-economic-racial-justice


And it makes me sad to see the limits of viewing Black liberation imagined as "this man, for whom so many of us did so much to put into office, needs to be able to haul as much cash as possible in the coming years as a signifier of Black success."

In the name of the Black ppl who worked their butts off to install him, the Latinx people he deported in record numbers, and the the ppl who are QTPoC, immigrants, Latinx, women and/or Muslin made vulnerable by his successor, I would hope Obama would be out here fighting for us.

But that is just a dream. Obama is who he is. The hope he'd "really speak his mind on race" when he left office was a denial of who he was in office.

The presidency is the head of the American empire, in all its complexity and violence.

And only Carter has wrestled with this in the post-presidency, largely outside of the market.

Neoliberal structure encourages liberals to retreat to safe spaces created by the market. If market "choice" can provide safe schools or healthcare or water or transport for someone, they're less inclined to demand society provide these things for whom "choice" has failed.

So, I fear Obama TV will encourage a neoliberal retreat for liberals to choose to have President Obama on Netflix, even as Trump runs rampant IRL running over the rest of us who can't much retreat to safety...

..and we can only wonder what Obama TV would have looked like if, perhaps, 44 had shown up on the public airwaves sometime, marching with ADAPT or BLM.

Mind you, I am not thinking about this as a character flaw in the Obamas as such. The presidency, post-presidency, the Obamas & all of us are formed by neoliberal logic. It's the dominant frame of our polticual consciousness.

But it's still distressing."
steventhrasher  barackobama  jimmycarter  hillaryclinton  neoliberalism  2018  ntflix  uber  lyft  airbnb  siliconvalley  corruption  markets  finance  banking  inequality  privatization  race  habitatfohumanity  money  politics  scotus  democrats  liberation  philanthropy  arneduncan  chicago  schools  education  batsydefos  rttt  davidplouffee  natalifoster  michaelmasserman  grit  poverty  society  publicservice  charterschools 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Uber Game
"This news game is based on real reporting, including interviews with dozens of Uber drivers.

For the best experience, please view this game in the latest version of Chrome, Safari or Firefox on desktop, or on the latest version of iOS or Android on mobile devices. Other browsers or versions may not be fully supported."

[via: "We made an @FT #newsgame!! Can you make it as an Uber driver for a week? "
https://twitter.com/RobinKwong/status/915829910358310912 ]
uber  games  gaming  seriousgames  videogames  labor  work  gigeconomy 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Frontier notes on metaphors: the digital as landscape and playground - Long View on Education
"I am concerned with the broader class of metaphors that suggest the Internet is an inert and open place for us to roam. Scott McLeod often uses the metaphor of a ‘landscape’: “One of schools’ primary tasks is to help students master the dominant information landscape of their time.”

McLeod’s central metaphor – mastering the information landscape – fits into a larger historical narrative that depicts the Internet as a commons in the sense of “communally-held space, one which it is specifically inappropriate for any single individual or subset of the community (including governments) to own or control.” Adriane Lapointe continues, “The internet is compared to a landscape which can be used in various ways by a wide range of people for whatever purpose they please, so long as their actions do not interfere with the actions of others.”

I suspect that the landscape metaphor resonates with people because it captures how they feel the Internet should work. Sarah T. Roberts argues that we are tempted to imagine the digital as “valueless, politically neutral and as being without material consequences.” However, the digital information landscape is an artifact shaped by capitalism, the US military, and corporate power. It’s a landscape that actively tracks and targets us, buys and sells our information. And it’s mastered only by the corporations, CEOs and venture capitalists.

Be brave? I have no idea what it would mean to teach students how to ‘master’ the digital landscape. The idea of ‘mastering’ recalls the popular frontier and pioneer metaphors that have fallen out of fashion since 1990s as the Internet became ubiquitous, as Jan Rune Holmevik notes. There is of course a longer history of the “frontiers of knowledge” metaphor going back to Francis Bacon and passing through Vannevar Bush, and thinking this way has become, according to Gregory Ulmer, “ubiquitous, a reflex, a habit of mind that shapes much of our thinking about inquiry” – and one that needs to be rethought if we take the postcolonial movement seriously.

While we might worry about being alert online, we aren’t exposed to enough stories about the physical and material implications of the digital. It’s far too easy to think that the online landscape exists only on our screens, never intersecting with the physical landscape in which we live. Yet, the Washington Post reports that in order to pave the way for new data centers, “the Prince William County neighborhood [in Virginia] of mostly elderly African American homeowners is being threatened by plans for a 38-acre computer data center that will be built nearby. The project requires the installation of 100-foot-high towers carrying 230,000-volt power lines through their land. The State Corporation Commission authorized Dominion Virginia Power in late June to seize land through eminent domain to make room for the towers.” In this case, the digital is transforming the physical landscape with hostile indifference to the people that live there.

Our students cannot be digitally literate citizens if they don’t know stories about the material implications about the digital. Cathy O’Neil has developed an apt metaphor for algorithms and data – Weapons of Math Destruction – which have the potential to destroy lives because they feed on systemic biases. In her book, O’Neil explains that while attorneys cannot cite the neighborhood people live in as a reason to deny prisoners parole, it is permissible to package that judgment into an algorithm that generates a prediction of recidivism."



"When I talk to students about the implications of their searches being tracked, I have no easy answers for them. How can youth use the net for empowerment when there’s always the possibility that their queries will count against them? Yes, we can use google to ask frank questions about our sexuality, diet, and body – or any of the other ways we worry about being ‘normal’ – but when we do so, we do not wander a non-invasive landscape. And there few cues that we need to be alert or smart.

Our starting point should not be the guiding metaphors of the digital as a playground where we need to practice safety or a landscape that we can master, but Shoshana Zuboff’s analysis of surveillance capitalism: “The game is selling access to the real-time flow of your daily life –your reality—in order to directly influence and modify your behavior for profit. This is the gateway to a new universe of monetization opportunities: restaurants who want to be your destination. Service vendors who want to fix your brake pads. Shops who will lure you like the fabled Sirens.”



So what do we teach students? I think that Chris Gilliard provides the right pedagogical insight to end on:
Students are often surprised (and even angered) to learn the degree to which they are digitally redlined, surveilled, and profiled on the web and to find out that educational systems are looking to replicate many of those worst practices in the name of “efficiency,” “engagement,” or “improved outcomes.” Students don’t know any other web—or, for that matter, have any notion of a web that would be different from the one we have now. Many teachers have at least heard about a web that didn’t spy on users, a web that was (theoretically at least) about connecting not through platforms but through interfaces where individuals had a significant amount of choice in saying how the web looked and what was shared. A big part of the teaching that I do is to tell students: “It’s not supposed to be like this” or “It doesn’t have to be like this.”
"
banjamindoxtdator  2017  landscapes  playgrounds  georgelakoff  markjohnson  treborscolz  digitalcitizenship  internet  web  online  mckenziewark  privacy  security  labor  playbor  daphnedragona  gamification  uber  work  scottmcleod  adrianelapointe  sarahroberts  janruneholmevik  vannevabush  gregoryulmer  francisbacon  chrisgilliard  pedagogy  criticalthinking  shoshanazuboff  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  safiyanoble  google  googleglass  cathyo'neil  algorithms  data  bigdata  redlining  postcolonialism  race  racism  criticaltheory  criticalpedagogy  bias 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Is the Gig Economy Working? - The New Yorker
"Many liberals have embraced the sharing economy. But can they survive it?"



"In a competitive market, though, advantaged people still end up leveraging their advantages: that is why Happy Host exists. Today, every major Airbnb city (among them London, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New Orleans) has multiple Happy Host equivalents to help meet rising market expectations. A two-year-old New York competitor, MetroButler, has twenty-two contractors and two cleaners, and last year bought the clientele of another competitor, Proprly. MetroButler’s co-founder Brandon McKenzie had been using Airbnb to pay down law-school debts when he realized that short-term rentals could support an entire service industry. “We’re sort of in the business of pickaxes during the Gold Rush,” he said."



"Normally, every efficiency has a winner and a loser. A service like Uber benefits the rider, who’s saving on the taxi fare she might otherwise pay, but makes drivers’ earnings less stable. Airbnb has made travel more affordable for people who wince at the bill of a decent hotel, yet it also means that tourism spending doesn’t make its way directly to the usual armies of full-time employees: housekeepers, bellhops, cooks.

To advocates such as Lehane, that labor-market swap is good. Instead of scrubbing bathrooms at the Hilton, you can earn directly, how and when you want. Such thinking, though, presumes that gigging people and the old working and service classes are the same, and this does not appear to be the case. A few years ago, Juliet B. Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College, interviewed forty-three mostly young people who were earning money from Airbnb, Turo (like Airbnb for car rentals), and TaskRabbit. She found that they were disproportionately white-collar and highly educated, like Seth F. A second, expanded study showed that those who relied on gigging to make a living were less satisfied than those who had other jobs and benefits and gigged for pocket money: another sign that the system was not helping those who most needed the work.

Instead of simply driving wealth down, it seemed, the gigging model was helping divert traditional service-worker earnings into more privileged pockets—causing what Schor calls a “crowding out” of people dependent on such work. That distillation-coil effect, drawing wealth slowly upward, is largely invisible. On the ground, the atmosphere grows so steamy with transaction that it often seems to rain much needed cash."



"Calls for structural change have grown loud lately, in part because the problem goes far beyond gigging apps. The precariat is everywhere. Companies such as Nissan have begun manning factories with temps; even the U.S. Postal Service has turned to them. Academic jobs are increasingly filled with relatively cheap, short-term teaching appointments. Historically, there is usually an uptick in 1099 work during tough economic times, and then W-2s resurge as jobs are added in recovery. But W-2 jobs did not resurge as usual during our recovery from the last recession; instead, the growth has happened in the 1099 column. That shift raises problems because the United States’ benefits structure has traditionally been attached to the corporation rather than to the state: the expectation was that every employed person would have a W-2 job.

“We should design the labor-market regulations around a more flexible model,” Jacob Hacker told me. He favors some form of worker participation, and, like Mulcahy, advocates creating a single category of employment. “I think if you work for someone else, you’re an employee,” he said. “Employees get certain protections. Benefits must be separate from work.”

In a much cited article in Democracy, from 2015, Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist, and David Rolf, a union president, proposed that workplace benefits be prorated (someone who works a twenty-hour week gets half of the full-time benefits) and portable (insurance or unused vacation days would carry from one job to the next, because employers would pay into a worker’s lifelong benefits account). Other people regard the gig economy as a case for universal basic income: a plan to give every citizen a modest flat annuity from the government, as a replacement for all current welfare and unemployment programs. Alternatively, there’s the proposal made by the economists Seth D. Harris and Alan B. Krueger: the creation of an “independent worker” status that awards some of the structural benefits of W-2 employment (including collective bargaining, discrimination protection, tax withholding, insurance pools) but not others (overtime and the minimum wage).

I put these possibilities to Tom Perez. He told me that he didn’t like the idea of eliminating work categories, or of adding a new one, as Harris and Krueger suggest: you’d lose many of the hard-won benefits included with W-2 employment, he said, either in the compromise to a single category or because current W-2 companies would find ways to slide into the new classification. He wanted to move slowly, to take time. “The heart and soul of the twentieth-century social compact that emerged after the Great Depression was forty years in the making,” he said. “How do we build the twenty-first-century social compact?”"



"One afternoon, I accompanied a Hello Alfred tasker named Phillip Pineno as he went to service apartments in Kips Bay. A placid guy with tiny silver hoops in his ears and a hipster’s dusky beard, Pineno does tasking four days a week and, like Bobby Allan, works in his remaining time as an actor. In the lobby of a building facing Bellevue South Park, he gathered packages and ascended to a client’s apartment—one of eleven he’d visit that day. A bag of Trader Joe’s Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips went in a cupboard. A box of cereal was tucked into position on the counter. Pineno used to be a caterer, doing events at Lincoln Center and the Museum of Natural History. The work was fine, he said, but unpredictable, different from Hello Alfred. “You get to feel more like a human,” he told me. He could take time every week to work toward his dream without gambling his future on it. He had found some sense of workplace comfort—of being valued and known.

For many gig workers, as for Seth F., that dream remains elusive. When Seth F. had finished hanging art work in my living room, I led him to the dining room. He took a small electric drill and some screws out of his backpack, and started driving them into the plaster. We were hanging a small print of a Sol LeWitt drawing, squares in squares in squares. He extracted a laser level, and projected it across the wall. “This is my favorite tool,” he told me, with a moving tenderness. He rarely met other taskers, he said; there were no colleagues in his life with whom he could share experiences and struggles. The flexibility was great, if you had something to be flexible for.

“The gig economy is such a lonely economy,” he told me. He left his drill behind after he finished the work, but I was out when he returned the next day to get it. I never saw him again."
gigeconomy  economics  nathanheller  2017  work  labor  precarity  taskrabbit  uber  lyft  postmates  sustainability  airbnb  inequality  servicework  loneliness 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death - The New Yorker
"Last September, a very twenty-first-century type of story appeared on the company blog of the ride-sharing app Lyft. “Long-time Lyft driver and mentor, Mary, was nine months pregnant when she picked up a passenger the night of July 21st,” the post began. “About a week away from her due date, Mary decided to drive for a few hours after a day of mentoring.” You can guess what happened next.

Mary, who was driving in Chicago, picked up a few riders, and then started having contractions. “Since she was still a week away from her due date,” Lyft wrote, “she assumed they were simply a false alarm and continued driving.” As the contractions continued, Mary decided to drive to the hospital. “Since she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet,” Lyft went on, “she stayed in driver mode, and sure enough—ping!— she received a ride request en route to the hospital.”

“Luckily,” as Lyft put it, the passenger requested a short trip. After completing it, Mary went to the hospital, where she was informed that she was in labor. She gave birth to a daughter, whose picture appears in the post. (She’s wearing a “Little Miss Lyft” onesie.) The post concludes with a call for similar stories: “Do you have an exciting Lyft story you’d love to share? Tweet us your story at @lyft_CHI!”

Mary’s story looks different to different people. Within the ghoulishly cheerful Lyft public-relations machinery, Mary is an exemplar of hard work and dedication—the latter being, perhaps, hard to come by in a company that refuses to classify its drivers as employees. Mary’s entrepreneurial spirit—taking ride requests while she was in labor!—is an “exciting” example of how seamless and flexible app-based employment can be. Look at that hustle! You can make a quick buck with Lyft anytime, even when your cervix is dilating.

Lyft does not provide its drivers paid maternity leave or health insurance. (It offers to connect drivers with an insurance broker, and helpfully notes that “the Affordable Care Act offers many choices to make sure you’re covered.”) A third-party platform called SherpaShare, which some drivers use to track their earnings, found, in 2015, that Lyft drivers in Chicago net about eleven dollars per trip. Perhaps, as Lyft suggests, Mary kept accepting riders while experiencing contractions because “she was still a week away from her due date,” or “she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet.” Or maybe Mary kept accepting riders because the gig economy has further normalized the circumstances in which earning an extra eleven dollars can feel more important than seeking out the urgent medical care that these quasi-employers do not sponsor. In the other version of Mary’s story, she’s an unprotected worker in precarious circumstances. “I can’t pretend to know Mary’s economic situation,” Bryan Menegus at Gizmodo wrote, when the story first appeared. “Maybe she’s an heiress who happens to love the freedom of chauffeuring strangers from place to place on her own schedule. But that Lyft, for some reason, thought that this would reflect kindly on them is perhaps the most horrifying part.”

It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news. Fiverr, an online freelance marketplace that promotes itself as being for “the lean entrepreneur”—as its name suggests, services advertised on Fiverr can be purchased for as low as five dollars—recently attracted ire for an ad campaign called “In Doers We Trust.” One ad, prominently displayed on some New York City subway cars, features a woman staring at the camera with a look of blank determination. “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the ad proclaims. “You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”

Fiverr, which had raised a hundred and ten million dollars in venture capital by November, 2015, has more about the “In Doers We Trust” campaign on its Web site. In one video, a peppy female voice-over urges “doers” to “always be available,” to think about beating “the trust-fund kids,” and to pitch themselves to everyone they see, including their dentist. A Fiverr press release about “In Doers We Trust” states, “The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic. No one wants to eat coffee for lunch or go on a bender of sleep deprivation—or answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video. It’s a stretch to feel cheerful at all about the Fiverr marketplace, perusing the thousands of listings of people who will record any song, make any happy-birthday video, or design any book cover for five dollars. I’d guess that plenty of the people who advertise services on Fiverr would accept some “whiteboarding” in exchange for employer-sponsored health insurance.

At the root of this is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system. The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric (everyone is always connecting, having fun, and killing it!) and the conditions that allow it to exist (a lack of dependable employment that pays a living wage) makes this kink in our thinking especially clear. Human-interest stories about the beauty of some person standing up to the punishments of late capitalism are regular features in the news, too. I’ve come to detest the local-news set piece about the man who walks ten or eleven or twelve miles to work—a story that’s been filed from Oxford, Alabama; from Detroit, Michigan; from Plano, Texas. The story is always written as a tearjerker, with praise for the person’s uncomplaining attitude; a car is usually donated to the subject in the end. Never mentioned or even implied is the shamefulness of a job that doesn’t permit a worker to afford his own commute.

There’s a painful distance between the chipper narratives surrounding labor and success in America and the lived experience of workers. A similar conflict drove Nathanael West, in 1934, to publish the novel “A Cool Million,” which satirized the Horatio Alger bootstrap fables that remained popular into the Great Depression. “Alger is to America what Homer was to the Greeks,” West once wrote. His protagonist in “A Cool Million,” Lemuel Pitkin, is an innocent, energetic striver, tasked with saving his mother’s house from foreclosure. A series of Alger-esque plot twists ensue. But Pitkin, rather than triumphing, ends up losing his teeth, his eye, his leg, his scalp, and finally his thumb. Morris Dickstein, in his book “Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression,” notes, “The novel ends with Lem as a vaudeville clown being beaten nightly until he simply falls apart.” A former President named Shagpoke Whipple gives a speech valorizing Pitkin’s fate, extolling “the right of every American boy to go into the world and . . . make his fortune by industry.” Whipple describes Pitkin’s dismemberment—“lovingly,” Dickstein adds—and tells his audience that, through Pitkin’s hard work and enthusiastic martyrdom, “America became again American.”"
jiatolentino  gigeconomy  freelancing  capitalism  culture  work  labor  exploitation  horatioalger  lemuelpitkin  morrisdickstein  uber  lyft  fiverr  self-reliance  individualism  economics  latecapitalism  neoliberalism  health  healthinsurance  well-being  affordablecareact  sleepdeprivation 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Uber’s ghost map and the meaning of greyballing | ROUGH TYPE
"The Uber map is a media production. It presents a little, animated entertainment in which you, the user, play the starring role. You are placed at the very center of things, wherever you happen to be, and you are surrounded by a pantomime of oversized automobiles poised to fulfill your desires, to respond immediately to your beckoning. It’s hard not to feel flattered by the illusion of power that the Uber map grants you. Every time you open the app, you become a miniature superhero on a city street. You send out a bat signal, and the batmobile speeds your way. By comparison, taking a bus or a subway, or just hoofing it, feels almost insulting.

In a similar way, a Google map also sets you in a fictionalized story about a place, whether you use the map for navigation or for searching. You are given a prominent position on the map, usually, again, at its very center, and around you a city personalized to your desires takes shape. Certain business establishments and landmarks are highlighted, while other ones are not. Certain blocks are highlighted as “areas of interest“; others are not. Sometimes the highlights are paid for, as advertising; other times they reflect Google’s assessment of you and your preferences. You’re not allowed to know precisely why your map looks the way it does. The script is written in secret.

It’s not only maps. The news and message feeds presented to you by Facebook, or Apple or Google or Twitter, are also stories about the world, fictional representations manufactured both to appeal to your desires and biases and to provide a compelling context for advertising. Mark Zuckerberg may wring his hands over “fake news,” but fake news is to the usual Facebook feed what the Greyball map is to the usual Uber map: an extreme example of the norm.

When I talk about “you,” I don’t really mean you. The “you” around which the map or the news feed or any other digitized representation of the world coalesces is itself a representation. As John Cheney-Lippold explains in his forthcoming book We Are Data, companies like Facebook and Google create digital versions of their users derived through an algorithmic analysis of the data they collect about their users. The companies rely on these necessarily fictionalized representations for both technical reasons (human beings can’t be computed; to be rendered computable, you have to be turned into a digital representation) and commercial reasons (a digital representation of a person can be bought and sold). The “you” on the Uber map or in the Facebook feed is a fake — a character in a story — but it’s a useful and a flattering fake, so you accept it as an accurate portrayal of yourself: an “I” for an I.

Greyballing is not an aberration of the virtual world. Greyballing is the essence of virtuality."

[via: https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-204 ]
mapping  maps  technology  self  simulacra  nicholascarr  via:audreywatters  greyballing  uber  ideology  fictions  data  algorithms  representation  news  facebooks  fakenews  cartography  business  capitalism  place  google 
march 2017 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
Uber's robot cars move in, and the homeless must move along - CNET
"Scoop: Security guards working at Uber's San Francisco facility for self-driving cars dismantle a nearby tent city, according to homeless people who were displaced."
sanfrancisco  uber  homeless  homelessness  2016  displacement 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Corporations are taking advantage of our underfunded public schools
"There are a lot of problems with McTeacher Nights, teachers and advocates for reduced commercialism in school argue. The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood conducted research last year on how much money is actually raised on these nights and found that they typically only provide $1 to $2 per student. In return, McDonald’s gets free labor from teachers, free advertising, and introduces a product to children in the hope of creating brand loyalty.

“What are we saying to educators? Are we not telling our educators to put in eight hours a day and then asking them to work a shift at McDonalds? For paltry field trip money?” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, NEA vice president of United Teachers, Los Angeles, who added that teachers shouldn’t be promoting unhealthy food. “It’s another way to privatize education. Education is already privatizing and this is just another way to do it.”

These events also help its public image. McDonald’s looks like a great corporate citizen, despite the fact that it could simply donate money to schools in amounts that would dwarf what schools receive from participating in McTeacher’s Nights."
schools  publischools  labor  economics  funding  money  politics  policy  privatization  corporatization  uber  mcdonalds  verizon  advertising  nestle  pepsico  generalmills  bumblebeefoods  cocacola  togethercounts 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Can I Be Honest? | Online Only | n+1
"WE WERE TESTING WHETHER THE FASCINATOR on Amanda McIllmurray’s head, which spelled out the phrase “War Hawk,” would attract journalists the same way a similar sign had earlier in the week. The previous sign was more straightforward—it had simply read “Bernie.” But nothing happened as we strolled around the corridor of the arena, proving, it seemed, how fickle and thoughtless the press were. Then everyone materialized at once, pressing cameras and microphones and tape recorders. “Are you ‘Bernie or Bust’?” one of them asked, eager and hopeful. She was, Amanda said, in the sense that she would always support Sanders and the movement he helped start, but she would vote for Hillary Clinton in November. “I like that, that’s a really smart position!” the journalist said, but apparently not enough to record. The official DNC Microsoft Skype recording studio asked her to sit for an interview and talk about her experience as a delegate from Pennsylvania at the convention. “Can I be honest?” she asked.

From the campaign through the last day of the convention, it has been one endless season of parental scolding for the Sanders supporters, from Clinton’s comment that Sanders needed “to do his homework” to Sarah Silverman informing the delegates chanting Ber-NIE that they were “being ridiculous,” prompting Al Franken—one of the convention’s many primetime dad-jokers—to bang the podium with his palms. Aggressions, micro- and macro-, were rampant. Sandy Watters, a delegate from Minnesota, reported getting screamed at by Clinton delegates for holding up an anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership sign. Like many Sanders delegates, it was her first national convention, but not her first convention: one had to go through municipal and state party conventions to arrive at the DNC. What made the DNC different was the intense overaccumulation of scrutiny—the sense, thanks to media and social media, that her every move was being relentlessly judged, and argument was forbidden.

There were other ways of making the Sanders delegates feel unwelcome. On Thursday, the DNC hadn’t bothered to inform McIllmurray, a delegate whip, that they’d moved the gavel time back, from 4:30 PM to 4. She found out from the Clinton delegates. She nonetheless got to the arena an hour early, but her delegation seating area had already been filled with Clinton “honored guests” as a way of keeping the Sanders people out. As she settled on a place for her disabled friend, who was confined to a wheelchair, she found herself confronted by Blondell Reynolds Brown, a Philadelphia councilwoman, who claimed that the seats belonged to her. They argued: Amanda said that this was discrimination against a disabled person, and an aide to Brown told Amanda she should watch herself, she was talking to a councilwoman. Amanda let her know that she knew very well: she had voted for her, though she probably wouldn’t next time. Once they had found other aisle seats, security forcibly moved them yet again. After being moved once more, they found seats secluded and unchallenged in the rear of the Arkansas delegation. Amanda had contemplated various forms of protest, but all proved logistically difficult. The evening’s discord was, for the most part, limited to signs protesting the TPP: “Walk the Walk,” and “Keep Your Promises.” By never mentioning the TPP in her speech, Clinton signaled that she would contravene the last.

One of the things the Clinton Democrats lorded over the Sanders supporters, and indeed over Trump, was their superior and more committed chauvinism. It was a sign of their adulthood, which they blared in alternately childlike and violent phraseology. America was already great, it was the greatest country on this planet. “This is the greatest nation on earth, a nation that so many are willing to die defending,” said Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois congresswoman and a candidate for Senate there. The Democrats would secure Israel’s future, they would destroy ISIS, they would honor and strengthen our commitment to our allies.

But it would all be moral. Our armed forces, General John Allen said, “will not be ordered to engage in murder,” a statement that will be falsified the moment Clinton orders her first drone strike. During his speech, in a spirit of savagery equal to anything at the Republican National Convention, pro-Clinton delegates shouted “U-S-A” at protesters holding up their fingers in peace signs. I saw one man in the Florida delegation get up on his chair to get in better chanting position, prompting his antagonist to get up as well, before they were both gently pulled down by friends. And this was for the candidate who had protested the Vietnam War and campaigned for Eugene McCarthy. Even the searing dignity of Khizr Khan’s speech memorializing his son, Humayun Khan, in which he called Hillary Clinton “the healer,” obscured the uncomfortable fact that Humayun had been killed while serving in the occupation of Iraq, the most consequential and terrible vote Clinton had ever cast.

Throughout the week, Clinton’s resume was marshaled to portray her as a social justice crusader and a champion of children and the woman you come to for solace. She was the most qualified candidate in history, it was said, a line that was as grueling to hear as the task must have been for Clinton to accomplish. We heard countless times about Clinton’s time forsaking a corporate job for the Children’s Defense Fund—though we didn’t hear that it, too, would be forsaken less than a year in, when Clinton left to join the team prosecuting the Watergate case, and subsequently worked for a corporate law firm. (Her mentor, Marian Wright Edelman, had for a time abjured her relationship with Clinton over welfare reform.) Her attempt at health care reform having foundered, she at least delivered insurance to children—a genuine success. To underscore it, there were photos of children, and videos of parents speaking to children, and videos of children watching Trump, and videos of children speaking to Hillary: so many children that it began to resemble a 34-year old’s Facebook feed. “Any parent knows your every dream for the future beats in the heart of your child,” Morgan Freeman intoned over a video introducing Hillary, an inadvertent condemnation, perhaps, of any child that dares to dream of a future differently from their parents. Clinton’s own child, serenely inexpressive but quavering, introduced her by speaking about her child, who loves Elmo, blueberries, and FaceTiming with grandma.

When grandma arrived, she brought with her the Clinton gift for noncommittal discourse. I had a sharp pang when Clinton mentioned—halfway through her abstract, mealy-mouthed, and woodenly-delivered speech—that she was the first woman candidate of a major party, which was then vitiated by her strange assertion that she would work to ensure every woman “has the opportunity she deserves to have.” But what does she deserve to have? We’re going “to raise the minimum wage to a living wage” (but how much?). We’re going to ensure “the right to affordable health care” (but how much is affordable?). “We must keep supporting Israel’s security,” and even this—the most predictable aspect of her presidency—was strangely without substance. I imagined her FaceTiming with her grandchild, saying “I look forward to committing ourselves to playing with some toys.” In a way, Ted Danson—one of the week’s many arbitrary celebrities—had prepared us best for this drab performance, when he said, gnomically, “Hers is the poetry of doing.” But doing what?

The evening’s earlier session on economic justice had been heartening, exuding the influence of Occupy Wall Street (Clinton bracingly made reference in her remarks to the top 1 percent—though not the bottom 99) and the Fight for 15. The Reverend William Barber, delivering a barnstorming oration, spoke forthrightly about fighting for “$15 and a union.” Tim Ryan, a representative from Ohio, began his speech by describing a long car ride with his father to multiple grocery stores on the outskirts of town—all because the meat cutters’ union was on strike, and they had to avoid crossing a picket line.

I wondered what the delegates thought of this, since hundreds of them had crossed a taxi-workers picket line when they arrived at a welcome party sponsored by Uber. Clinton had affirmed the Democratic Party as the party of “working people,” but earlier in the evening, when California congressman Xavier Becerra asked “Who here makes a living with their hands?” the arena responded with silence. Long gone—partly thanks to the Clintons, though it goes as far back as the candidacy of Stevenson—was the Democratic Party in which Harry Truman could say as a matter of course, that a particular “Republican rich man’s tax bill . . . sticks a knife into the back of the poor.” The line of the week, and maybe beyond that, belonged to the great Jesse Jackson, who said, with a glint, “the Bern must never grow cold.” Among all the speakers, he alone probably understood what Sanders and his supporters were feeling, and he gave them the truest form of solace: solidarity."
nikilsaval  elections  hillaryclinton  2016  berniesanders  democrats  campaigning  campaignfinance  money  influence  corruption  solidarity  uber  labor  tpp  condescencion  williambarber 
july 2016 by robertogreco
‘Pokémon Go’ and the Persistent Myth of Stranger Danger — Pacific Standard
"For as long as we’ve had kids on the Internet, we’ve worried about adults with bad intentions luring them into an in-person meeting. If anyone can name a television crime procedural from the past 20 years that doesn’t feature the plotline, I’ll give them $10. “Parents and teachers today worry a lot about digital safety, in particular — and far more than young people do themselves,” write John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in the new, updated version of their book Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age. The book’s implied audience is adults who want a good explanation of kids from other adults, and safety is clearly a big concern, whether it’s reasonable or not. Citing a 2006 anecdote of an assault victim who’d been groomed on Myspace, the authors write: “Despite the absence of data to show that young people are at a greater risk in an Internet era, there is reason enough for young people to be very cautious about how much information they share.”

This expert perspective — both authors were at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society until Palfrey became head of school at Phillips Andover Academy — is the usual one when it comes to kids online. Somewhere between scholarship and a parenting manual, Born Digital manages somehow to be neither. “From an adult perspective,” Palfrey and Gasser write, “young people often divulge too much information about themselves online.” But despite this awareness of the limits of their perspective, the authors still aren’t able to think beyond their own point of view. As a result, they don’t display a very good understanding of youth risk-taking.

Take sexting, for example. The authors think it’s important to “develop approaches that include young people as problem-solvers” when it comes to sexting, but they also think they have the answer: “Sharing naked pictures of oneself, even on a service like Snapchat, which is supposedly ‘temporary,’ is not worth the risk of suffering public embarrassment, possibly having to register as a sex offender, and even potentially going to jail.” Palfrey and Gasser thinks it’s important to educate young people about Internet safety so that they make the right choices, like not meeting strangers or sending nudes.

I called up Jeffrey Temple, director of behavioral health and research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (and a foremost authority on teenage sexting behavior), to check the data. Temple has authored or co-authored five studies on the actual practices of young sexters, and what he’s found doesn’t line up with the news. “Nothing ‘bad’ happens to the vast majority of those who sext,” he tells me. “There aren’t any legal complications, there aren’t any psycho-social consequences, anything like that.” There are risks of course, but a fully informed teen might reasonably decide to sext anyway. “The strongest correlate undoubtedly for teen sexting is a consensual sexual relationship,” Temple says. It’s important to remember, he tells me, that more teens are having actual sexual intercourse than are sexting.

Palfrey and Gasser write that sexting stories “rarely end well,” but the stories we hear are hardly representative of actual youth experiences. If two teens trade sexy pics and don’t share them with anyone else, we don’t hear about it. If a group of girls plan a mall meet-up with a grown Internet stranger just to gawk at him from the food court, their parents probably won’t find out, never mind the local cable affiliates. Combine scaremongering news reports and the fact that there’s no story when nothing bad happens, and we’re set up to be misled. If you look at the data, young people have a better sense of the risks they’re taking than commentators who base their thinking on the evening news.

When Palfrey and Gasser write about the absence of data to support the idea that Internet-era kids are at greater risk, they’re being a little disingenuous. They make it sound as though they looked everywhere and simply couldn’t find the statistics, when the truth is that all available data sets indicate that young Americans are increasingly safe from accidental and intentional victimization alike. The people who are most likely to violate children are known to them: Acquaintances, peers, and, yes, parents. Strangers only commit 1 to 10 percent of child abuse. Almost no one wants to harm children, and the ones who do tend to target kids close to them.



When Palfrey and Gasser write about the absence of data to support the idea that Internet-era kids are at greater risk, they’re being a little disingenuous. They make it sound as though they looked everywhere and simply couldn’t find the statistics, when the truth is that all available data sets indicate that young Americans are increasingly safe from accidental and intentional victimization alike. The people who are most likely to violate children are known to them: Acquaintances, peers, and, yes, parents. Strangers only commit 1 to 10 percent of child abuse. Almost no one wants to harm children, and the ones who do tend to target kids close to them.

From a parental or custodial perspective, Palfrey and Gasser write, it’s important that kids learn to manage risks — but the authors don’t ever acknowledge any apparent upside to particular instances of risky behavior: They aren’t so much interested in why a kid might decide to send a nude or chat with strangers or go hunting for a Flareon in an abandoned lot at three in the morning, as in how to convince them not to. Even looking at his own data, Temple stresses to me that, as the father of a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old, he doesn’t want to give the impression that underage sexting is “OK.” But, I ask him, is it fair to say that most teens who sext are OK? “Yes, most kids who sext are OK.”

It’s fine for parents and adult authorities to have a risk-averse perspective when it comes to youth behavior — nobody really wants too-cool parents with boundary issues. But adults also shouldn’t confuse paranoia with fact, which is easy to do when there aren’t many teen pundits around to explain what’s going on from their perspective. Sexual exploration is a valid and important part of healthy development. Going outside and talking to strangers is a valid and important part of healthy development. Kids assert their own judgment, they do it online and in real life at the same time, and they are, by and large, pretty good at it.

It’s OK, too, that adults aren’t the best at assessing risky youth behavior, especially on the Internet — kids are the ones who have to make those judgments for themselves. It only becomes a problem when adults want it both ways: when they want kids to learn decision-making, but also to automatically avoid unnecessary risks. But learning to navigate unnecessary risks is, well, necessary.

I started thinking about Pokémon and safety after I saw one of many viral tweets about interacting with kids who were playing the game. Lisa McKinley tweeted, “A little boy in my neighborhood just knocked on our door and said ‘sorry to bother you, but there’s a Pokémon in your house and I need it.’” She — “of course!” — let him in. This stuck with me because the skills a kid needs to ask their neighbor for Pokémon are not so different from the skills a boy named JaJuan needed to stay safe when his mother Shetamia Taylor was hit in the crossfire at the Dallas Black Lives Matter march. Separated from his mom, JaJuan found Angie Wisner, a stranger. Wisner told NBC that JaJuan bumped into her and asked “Ma’am can I come with you because I lost my mama?” Wisner said the same thing as McKinley, the same thing most adult strangers say when kids ask for their help: “Of course.”

In a parental nightmare scenario, Taylor was able to keep her son safe. JaJuan was prepared to handle an emergency on his own, even if that just meant finding a trustworthy stranger and asking for help. There are consequences to never taking unnecessary risks, and it’s dangerous not to let children talk to strangers, even if a parent’s risk-averse impulse might be to say, “Stop bothering that man, he hasn’t seen any Jigglypuffs!” Maybe the kid’s right. Maybe the stranger can help."
2016  malcolmharris  pokemongo  strangerdanger  risktaking  teens  children  youth  johnpalfrey  ursgasser  snapchat  sexting  paranoia  dange  safety  parenting  uber  internet  web  online  data  pokémongo 
july 2016 by robertogreco
A New Wrinkle in the Gig Economy: Workers Get Most of the Money - The New York Times
[via: https://workfutures.io/message-ansel-on-overwork-jenkin-on-the-workplace-cortese-on-stocksy-mohdin-on-project-3cb6502c79a8 ]

"So using money from the sale of iStock to Getty, she and Mr. Livingstone set out to create Stocksy, paying photographers 50 to 75 percent of sales. That is well above the going rate of 15 to 45 percent that is typical in the stock photography field. The company also distributes 90 percent of its profit at the end of each year among its photographers.

“We realized we could do it differently this time,” said Ms. Wettlaufer, who took over the chief executive role in 2014. “We could enter the market with a model that ensured artists were treated fairly and ethically.”

Stocksy is part of a new wave of start-ups that are borrowing the tools of Silicon Valley to create a more genuine “sharing” economy that rewards the individuals generating the value.

According to a recent Pew poll, 72 percent of Americans have used some sort of shared or on-demand service, whether it’s Uber for rides or TaskRabbit for things as diverse as dog walking and household chores. But there has been much criticism that, after the platforms take their cut and the workers pay for expenses, little may trickle down to those doing the actual work.

And although many workers appreciate the flexibility to schedule their own hours, they don’t have the same protections and benefits as full-time employees. Evidence suggests that the shift to on-demand labor may increase economic vulnerability for the roughly one-third of Americans who are contingent workers."
stocksy  labor  work  gigeconomy  lbo  economics  taskrabbit  uber  cooperatives  photography  profitsharing  2016 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Ghost in the machine: Snapchat isn’t mobile-first — it’s something else entirely — Free Code Camp
"Snapchat is not mobile-first, and it’s not really an app anymore. Nor is it a meta-app platform at this point like Facebook Messenger is angling to become (at least not yet). Snapchat is a true creature of mobile, a living, breathing embodiment of everything that our camera-enabled, networked pocket computer can possibly offer. And in its cooption of smartphones into a true social operating system, we see the inklings of what is beyond mobile.
When I open Snapchat up to the camera, I can’t shake the feeling that the ghost is banging on the glass, trying to break out into the world."
snapchat  benbasche  2016  photography  ar  augmentedreality  design  ux  ui  media  susansontag  nathanjurgenson  cameras  feeds  mobile  mobilefirst  twitter  facebook  instagram  experience  socialmedia  smartphones  uber  authenticallymobile  evanspiegel 
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
Popular versus Brilliant | Designers + Geeks
"Jim Bull is worried about the future of design and thinks you should be too. Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Moving Brands, Jim dissects an industry where design is judged by the number of its likes and shares, where the focus is on efficiency rather than brilliance, and where one or two companies set the design standard for the globe."

[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/155640569 ]

[Tagged “web rococo” because this is the opposite.]

[Not sure why there is no mention of Tibor Kalman and Oliviero Toscani in the Benetton discussion. And there seems to be some tunnel vision here. Sure, the big SV VC backed companies are all looking the same, but they're not the only ones making things on the web. You know, there are many other countries and languages to look to for something other than California Design. Uh, maybe that's more the issue: SV only sees itself and it's not diverse.]

[via: https://twitter.com/soopa/status/700559147247357952 ]
jimbbull  californiadesign  siliconvalley  2016  branding  reverence  generic  popularity  brilliance  apple  uber  medium  california  graphicdesign  webdesign  movingbrands  productdesign  sameness  webrococo  benetton  olivierotoscani  tiborkalman  design  business  california-zation  homogenization  designeducation  art  differentiation  ui  ux  screens  magicleap  ar  augmentedreality  virtualreality  packaging  vr  webdev 
february 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
analysis about cabbies & uber in toronto (with images, tweets) · pangmeli · Storify
"touching on technological progress as a natural disaster, uber as walmart in sheep's clothing, cabbies' right to economic survival, the idea of guaranteed living wages, the problem with jobs, cabbies' anti-blackness, how race complicates our relationship to this issue, protesting as "PR", and more."



"uber users who see protesting cabbies as luddites fighting an already-lost war against a superior technology are missing the point

if technological progress really is like a natural disaster — faceless, inexorable, amoral — shouldn't we protect those dispossessed by it

the point isn't to reverse progress, the point is to protect a vulnerable class of workers amid a major technological shift

yes the traditional taxi system sucked, but that doesn't absolve us of responsibility, especially when we back-burnered the warning signs

cabbies' demands for taxi reform were ignored to the point of crisis — now we patronizingly inform them that 'lack of reform' is the culprit

why are we okay with consigning our cabbies to poverty & obsolescence? because the better tech 'deserves' the win? even over human lives?

it's the canadian way — squeeze immigrants (cab drivers, international students, chinese railroad workers) & then flick them off our fingers

maybe one day we can live in a world where everything is so efficient & convenient that all humans except tech CEOs are destitute

if the tech is going to put 11,000 torontonians' livehihoods at risk, it's not that they aren't ready — it's that the tech isn't ready

@torontodan @pangmeli That's why many techies/futurists also tend to be "basic income" proponents. We know autonomous tech coming very soon

nice point from @_divyeshM — if we want to let technology loose so badly, let's demand a guaranteed living wage https://twitter.com/_DivyeshM/status/674635351001010176

…"
uber  disruption  2015  economics  universalbasicincome  toronto  labor  race  walmart  jobs  taxis  technology  dispossessed  displacement  canada  responsibility  society  capitalism  obsolescence  vulnerability  ubi 
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
Where should a good millennial live? | Fusion
"From this perspective, a lot of our sparkling innovations are glorified infrastructure for declining living standards. “Gypsy cabs” are a longstanding part of the urban economy, but Uber offers a brand. Tenants have been taking in extra boarders to help pay the rent for centuries, but AirBnB legitimizes the practice in the eyes of regulators. An ad for the app Wallapop shows a young man racing to sell his possessions so he can afford to take his girlfriend on a date. The app Letgo does the same thing, and it advertises during the same programs. Clearly the venture capitalists funding these companies think youth desperation is a growth industry. The billion-dollar question is which platforms can make it feel normal.

There’s nothing wrong with young people wanting to live well and independently, not at the expense of their parents, low-income longtime residents, or the environment. That’s what the fantasy of the model millennial living in a box is about, and that’s what makes parts of it very appealing. It would be great if Americans got used to taking up less residential space and filling it with less clutter. Cutting the transportation associated with our way of life may even be essential for the persistence of humans on Earth.

But in a system where every personal sacrifice turns up on some corporate balance sheet, where the workers living in trucks—celebrated and not—create the profits that buy vacation homes, it’s impossible to separate innovation and exploitation. When we talk about where good millennials should live, we’re ignoring more important questions about who owns land, how much, and why. Young Americans can’t allow ourselves to be divided and distracted into accepting a world that continues to award less to more and more to fewer."
malcolmharris  inequality  housing  land  2015  millennials  uber  airbnb  wallapop  letgo  capitalism  tinyhouses  regulation  business  corporatism  clutter  environment  labor  work 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Uber for School? - DML Central
"Disruptive innovation. Bleeding edge. Scalable solutions. The Uber for X. Silicon Valley is routinely ridiculed for the language of technology entrepreneurship and startup culture it has dispersed. Yet, the Silicon Valley vocabulary is fast becoming part of the language of education, and major tech companies are using their massive financial power to create their own new schools.

In the last few years, IBM has launched P-TECH, a network of “smarter schools” modeled on its Smarter Cities program. A former Google executive has established AltSchool, a chain of schools designed more like makerspaces than conventional schools. And, the widow of Steve Jobs of Apple has dedicated a huge philanthropic donation to a school redesign competition, XQ: Super School Project. Rather than tinkering in the margins of state schooling, Silicon Valley is setting out on a kind of creative destruction of the institution of education itself.

These innovations are, to borrow a phrase, the “Uber for School.” They are radically disruptive “startup schools” — new kinds of educational institutions that originate in Silicon Valley startup culture. These new schools are being designed as scalable technical platforms, underpinned by software engineering expertise; they are funded by commercial and venture capital sources; staffed and managed by execs and engineers from some of Silicon Valley’s most successful startups and web companies; and proposed to reinvent, reimagine and rebuild schools in the image of Silicon Valley itself."
uber  education  schools  benwilliamson  code/school  xq  superschoolproject  makerschools  altschool  homeschool  emersoncollective  robkitchin  martindodge  p-tech  greglinday  disruption  siliconvalley  scale  scalability  technosolutionism  ibm 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Why I Quit Ordering From Uber-for-Food Start-Ups - The Atlantic
[This is Josephine: https://josephine.com/ ]

"I work some days from a small office in San Francisco, and every day, I gotta eat. For a stretch of several weeks this year, I obtained my lunch from an iPhone app called Sprig.

It’s a beautiful piece of software. A trompe l’oeil table offers a compact slate of choices for lunch and dinner, all photographed beautifully from above. On the day I’m writing this, I can get a Caesar salad ($11), blackened chicken with broccoli ($11), a lamb-kofta wrap ($11), a tequila-lime shrimp salad ($13), or a kimchi veggie bowl ($10). Everything is organic, with sources all specified. The chicken comes from Petaluma.

* * *

I work some days from my apartment in Berkeley, and every day, I gotta eat. Two or three times a month, I obtain lunch or dinner from a network called Josephine.

The first time I encountered Josephine, its website was a bare page that instructed you to enter your phone number and “join our SMS list.” The design is only slightly more elaborate today; there’s still no iPhone app.

Josephine doesn’t prepare any meals itself. Instead, it screens home cooks and takes orders on their behalf. On the day I’m writing this, I can get carrot soup ($11) from Lisa in Oakland or pho ($13) from Hai in Emeryville. That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, there’s chicken and dumplings ($11) from Suzie in Albany or veggie enchiladas ($8) from Afiba in Fruitvale. The menu extends out two weeks; Josephine is less “I’m hungry now” and more “I expect to be hungry on Thursday, so I’d better line something up.” The photography is rough-and-ready, Etsy-caliber, and the dishes are described by the cooks themselves.

* * *

Sprig sells on speed: From selection to delivery, it’s twenty minutes. The experience is identical to an order from Seamless or GrubHub. A harried courier extracts your meal from a fat insulated bag; you say “thank you,” close the door, and feel bad for a moment about the differences between your lives. Five stars.

Meals from Sprig arrive reliably deflated from their in-app depictions: soggier, less composed. The quality of the food ranges, in my experience, from “sure, I can eat this” to very good indeed. It’s approximately equivalent to what you’d get in a nice cafeteria; better than Kaiser Permanente’s, not as good as Facebook’s.

“Gotta eat” is a rumble in the belly, a business opportunity, and a public-health crisis all rolled into one, and to address it, Sprig is building the biggest, nicest cafeteria ever. The ambition is clear: Sprig in every city, with longer menus, better ingredients, faster delivery. I can see them: the drones dropping lamb kofta from the sky.

But there’s more to any cafeteria than the serving line, and Sprig’s app offers no photograph of that other part. This is the Amazon move: absolute obfuscation of labor and logistics behind a friendly buy button. The experience for a Sprig customer is super convenient, almost magical; the experience for a chef or courier…? We don’t know. We don’t get to know. We’re just here to press the button.

I feel bad, truly, for Amazon and Sprig and their many peers—SpoonRocket, Postmates, Munchery, and the rest. They build these complicated systems and then they have to hide them, because the way they treat humans is at best mildly depressing and at worst burn-it-down dystopian.

What would it be like if you didn’t have to hide the system?

* * *

Meals from Josephine are not available for delivery.

On the day of your order, a text message arrives bearing a street address. You ride over on your bicycle and spot a Josephine sign taped to the front door, which is ajar. You step inside; the feeling is both clandestine and transgressive. In the kitchen, the cook—your neighbor—is working. Maybe another customer—also your neighbor—is lingering. You announce yourself, say hello, receive your meal. Chat a bit, if you like. Carry it home in a bag dangling from your handlebars.

It definitely takes more than twenty minutes.

But I will tell you that my Josephine pickups have been utterly reliable generators of smiles and warm feelings. I look forward to them, not just because “gotta eat,” but because they unlock my neighborhood, fill in the blank spaces on my mental map. And of course, it’s always fun to see the insides of other people’s houses.

The seriousness of Josephine’s cooks ranges widely. Some are clearly demi-professionals, as polished and efficient as Airbnb hosts; others seem surprised to have people in their kitchen. Some offer fat slices of cornbread as impulse buys; others seem happy to have finished their soup in time.

What unites them is this: They are your neighbors; they have cooked a dish of their own design; they have invited you into their home.

I flaked on a Josephine meal once, and as the pick-up window was closing, my phone rang. It was the cook. “I can leave it out for you,” she offered. I demurred. “Oh, okay,” she said. Her voice betrayed her disappointment. I felt bad all night.

* * *

Sprig started in 2013. Its four founders have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $50 million so far. (It is safe to assume the words "Uber for food" were uttered along the way.) Currently, you can order in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Chicago—the last of which is clearly the test case for national expansion. The Sprig careers page advertises openings in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, and Austin.

Josephine started in 2014. Its two founders also have tech-industry roots, and the company has raised around $600,000 so far. Mark Bittman recently joined its board of directors. Josephine’s home cooks are mainly scattered around Oakland and Berkeley. In October, the company listed its first batch of meals for San Francisco; on the day I’m writing, there are three home cooks in the city.

If Sprig projects an Amazon-like relentlessness, Josephine feels tenuous; some days, it seems almost too good for this world, too “eat your vegetables,” literally and figuratively. It’s convenient, but not THAT convenient. When it needs more cooks, it can’t simply hire them. Its viability in neighborhoods beyond the Bay Area will depend on instruments subtler than a war chest and an expansion playbook.

* * *

We are alive at a time when huge systems—industrial, infrastructural—are being remade, and I think it’s our responsibility as we make choices both commercial and civic—it’s just a light responsibility, don’t stress—to extrapolate forward, and ask ourselves: Is this a system I want to live inside? Is this a system fit for humans?

It’s like this:

Sprig-type operations drain agency and expertise out of the world. They centralize, aiming to build huge hubs with small spokes; their innermost mechanisms are hidden. They depend on humans behaving as interchangeable units of labor.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Sprig, no one cooks who is not employed by this kind of company.

Josephine cultivates agency and expertise. It decentralizes, aims to build a dense mesh, neighborhood-scale; its mechanisms are public. It depends on humans developing their specific, idiosyncratic tastes and skills.

In the hypothetical future we can label Full Josephine, many people don’t cook, but some people cook a lot more, and better, than ever before, and all of us, cooks and non-cooks, derive pleasure from that. We meet on the sidewalk carrying warm veggie enchiladas.

What kills me is the plausibility of the Josephine future. This isn’t some utopian vision; there’s a scale model working in the East Bay today. Neighborhoods everywhere are full of cooks, or would-be cooks; the talent and the desire is thick on the ground.

Josephine employs the most basic tools of telecommunications to make a market and match “gotta eat” with “wanna cook.” This could be the system! The rumble in the belly, the business opportunity, the public-health crisis: The answer to all of it might be waiting next door.

We make these choices, bit by bit. I stopped ordering from Sprig back in the spring, because (a) I don’t like that future and (b) they sent me a truly sub-par chicken sandwich.

Every couple of weeks, or whenever I think of it, I check Josephine for something nearby. The food is always good, at least friend-cooking-dinner good and often better, but honestly, the future is what sells it."
robinsloan  systems  systemsthinking  2015  amazon  sprig  uber  efficiency  josephine  markbittman  decentralization  civics  society  neighborhoods  community  humanity  future  food  cooking  eating  slow  slowness  relentlessness  neighbors  neighborliness  dystopia  technosolutionism 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Gig Economy – AVC
"Warning: This post touches politics. The comments will likely be incendiary and polarizing. Don’t go into the comments if you don’t want to be annoyed or irritated.

Many in the tech industry are taking these comments by Hillary Clinton yesterday as an ‘attack on Uber and the tech sector':
Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

The first example is Airbnb, the second example is oDesk, the third example is Etsy, and the fourth example is Uber.

My view on these comments is that Hillary is right. These companies are creating exciting new economies and unleashing innovation. And she is also right that these companies raise questions about work place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

We should not be afraid of this discussion. We should embrace it and have it.

Can you be a freelance worker if you don’t own the data about your work and earnings history and be able to take it with you when you leave a platform or export it to a third party for optimization? Can you be a freelance worker if you are indentured to your employer because they loaned you the money to purchase the asset you are using to earn your income? I think the answer to both is obviously no. But there are companies who argue that it is yes.

Let’s have that argument. It is important and it is also a good idea to have a President who understands where the economy is headed and the significance of the policy issues raised by all of this.

I also really liked what she had to say about women and the workforce. The entire transcript of her remarks is here."

[See also: http://continuations.com/post/124069363855/debating-the-gig-economy-going-past-industrial ]
economics  politics  fredwilson  2015  hillaryclinton  gigeconomy  universalbasicincome  socialsafetynet  work  labor  uber  airbnb  odesk  etsy  income  policy  ubi 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Continuations : Debating the Gig Economy: Going Past Industrial...
"Yesterday Hilary Clinton mentioned the “gig economy” in a speech. She said
Meanwhile, many Americans are making extra money renting out a small room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This on-demand, or so-called gig economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation.

But it is also raising hard questions about work-place protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

This is of course a topic I have been speaking and writing about a lot. Like Fred [http://avc.com/2015/07/the-gig-economy/ ], I think that this is a discussion we need to have. I think the framing though of the question has to be quite different. We need to move past traditional concepts of work and jobs towards an era of economic freedom enabled by a universal basic income and something akin to what I have called the right to be represented by a bot.

As long as we frame the debate in terms of “work-place protections” and a “good job” we are still caught in the industrial system. The hallmark of the industrial system is what I call the job loop: most people sell their time and receive a wage in return — they then use that wage to buy products and services, which in turn are made by people selling their time. This job loop has been extraordinarily successful. In combination with relatively free markets it has given us incredible progress. But it is now breaking down due to automation and globalization.

The rise of the gig economy is a part of this break down of the job loop. Instead of trying to fix it and to imprint traditional work and labor thinking on these new platforms I propose an entirely different approach: truly and deeply empower individuals to participate on their own terms. Just imagine for a moment a world in which everyone can take care of basic needs such as housing, clothing, food, healthcare and education.

In such a world any and all participation in “gigs” will be entirely voluntary. People will have real walk away options from gigs that don’t pay enough. That also includes “jobs” at McDonalds, or Walmart or the local nail salon. In such a world there is no need to distinguish between a W2 employee and a 1099 contractor.

Such a world is now possible thanks to the productivity gains we have made over many years and the ones that are just now emerging. If you want some good numbers on the economic feasibility of a Universal Basic Income I propose reading this piece by Scott Santens. You can also listen to and read about a discussion from a few weeks back at Civic Hall which includes additional thoughts on funding.

Empowering individuals economically through a Universal Basic Income is just the start though. We also need to give individuals informational freedom. This means that if I am a driver for Uber I should have the right to access Uber through a third party app that strictly represents me. In the open web era that was the browser (not by accident referred to as a “user agent” in the http protocol). We need the equivalent for apps.

The combination of economic and informational freedom for individuals will be a far better check on the power of platforms such as Uber, Etsy, Airbnb, etc. then any attempt to have government regulate directly what these companies can and cannot do.

So this is a perfectly good time to suggest you watch my TEDxNewYork talk on basic income and the right to be represented by a bot.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8qo7pzH_NM ]

If you prefer to read, there is a transcript [http://continuations.com/post/108912689660/big-and-bot-policy-proposals-transcript ] instead. I am also happy to report that my book (which will really be a long essay) on this topic is making good progress."
economics  universalbasicincome  2015  albertwenger  socialsafetynet  work  labor  technology  freedom  scottsantens  fredwilson  automation  gigeconomy  freelancing  hillaryclinton  uber  etsy  airnbn  policy  jobs  progress  inequality  agency  motivation  politics  ubi 
july 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
Uber, or: The technics and politics of socially corrosive mobility | Speedbird
"This state of affairs, however, is unlikely to last forever. Other interested parties will surely note Uber’s success, draw their own conclusions from it, and attempt to apply whatever lessons they derive to the marketing of their own products and services. If Uber is a confession that the “smart city” is a place we already live in, then, it is also a cautionary case study in the kinds of values we can expect such a city to uphold in its everyday operation — some merely strongly implicit, others right out there in the open. Just what are they?

– Those who can afford to pay more deserve to be treated better." …

– That “better” amounts to a bland generic luxury." …

– Interpersonal exchanges are more appropriately mediated by algorithms than by one’s own competence." …

– "Private enterprise should be valorized over public service provision on principle, even when public alternatives would afford comparable levels of service."



"Quite simply, the city is smaller for people who have access to Uber. The advent of near-effortless, on-demand, point-to-point personal mobility has given them a tesseract with which the occasionally unwieldy envelope of urban space-time can be folded down to something more readily manageable. It’s trivially easy to understand the appeal of this — especially when the night is dark, the bus shelter is cold, the neighborhood is remote, and one is alone.

But as should be clear by now, this power to fold space and time comes at a terrible cost. The four values enumerated above make Uber a prime generator of the patterns of spatialized injustice Stephen Graham has called “software-sorted geographies,” although it does so in a way unencompassed by Graham’s original account. Its ordinary operation injects the urban terrain with a mobile and distributed layer of invidious privilege, a hypersite where practices and values deeply inimical to any meaningful conception of the common wealth are continuously reproduced.

More insidiously yet, these become laminated into journey-planning and other services when they position Uber alongside other options available to the commuter, as simply another tab or item in a pull-down menu. Ethical questions are legislated at the level of interface design, at the hands of engineers and designers so immersed in the privileges of youth and relative wealth, and so inculcated with the values prevalent in their own industry, that they may well not perceive anything about Uber to be objectionable in the slightest. (Notable in this regard are Google Maps and Citymapper, both of which now integrate Uber as a modal option alongside public transit and taxis, and Apple’s App Store, which lists the Uber app as an “Essential.”) Consciously or not, though, every such integration acts to normalize the Randian solipsism, the fratboy misogyny, and the sneering disdain for the very notion of a public good that saturates Uber’s presentation of its identity.

Where innovations in personal mobility could just as easily be designed to extend the right to the city, and to conceive of on-demand access to all points in the urbanized field as a public utility, Uber acts to reinscribe and to actually strengthen existing inequities of access. It is an engine consciously, delicately and expertly tuned to socialize risk and privatize gain. In furtherance of the convenience of a few, it sheds risk on its drivers, its passengers, and the communities within which it operates. If in any way this offering is a harbinger of the network-mediated services we can expect to contend with in the city to come, I believe we are justified in harboring the gravest concern — and, further, in doing whatever we can to render the act of choosing to book a ride with Uber a social faux pas of Google Glass proportions."
2015  uber  adamgreenfield  tranpsportation  politics  technology  mobility  transmobility  inequality  injustice  socialjustice  community  luxury 
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
Warren Ellis Esquire Essay - Warren Ellis Technology Column
"Regardless of what you think of Uber and its corporate behavior, the lesson should not go unlearned: If you build your business on top of someone else's system, eventually they're going to notice. Just last week, the livestreaming app Meerkat, which uses Twitter to transmit, felt a cold breeze pass through the room when Twitter bought the competing system Periscope, which will doubtless be baked into Twitter as soon as possible. Digital businesses can murder and haunt their own parasites.

In the midst of all this? Rich, crazy Elon Musk, who intends to put large and efficient electric batteries into people's homes. Which may not be one of his weird side projects, like Hyperloop, especially since Apple is hiring his car-makers away, and their car sales and shipments are under the projected numbers. And because it fits right in with the "disruption" thing. You know Musk has a solar panel company, right? This seems quite clever: SolarCity will let you lease their panels, or you can take out a 30-year loan with them. SolarCity doesn't charge you for installing or maintaining the system, and you pay SolarCity for the power the system generates, thereby paying off the loan. Electricity as a mortgage. Now, combine that with a rechargeable fuel cell in your home that could probably power your house for at least a week all on its own. Welcome to Basic Utilities Disruption.

Have you been reading this and thinking, Hmm, I'm not very interested in technology and disruption and ghosts and whatever else the hell you're talking about? Well, I bet you're interested in a future where it remains cost-effective for your local electricity substations to be maintained even after a critical number of homes in your area have gone off the grid, or, in the extreme open-market scenario, if it remains cost-effective to even supply electricity to your town at all. And what unforeseeable haunting might happen in the chilly aftermath...

We only sleep at night because Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Elon Musk don't want our businesses. Yet.

Facebook and Google fighting with balloons and drones to bring internet to Africa. Apple making Big Phones. Android NFC wallets versus Apple Pay. iCloud and Amazon Storage. You know what'll happen once these self-driving consumer-facing services go online? They'll be doing same-day purchase deliveries, going head-to-head with Amazon in cities, a fuller and faster version of Google's piloted Shopping Express. Jeff Bezos owns a rocket development firm, by the way, so maybe go carefully with that. Oh, and Apple apparently want into enterprise support business, which will put them against Amazon, where all the enterprise data is stored, and, of course, sleepy, old Microsoft.

Keep breathing. Stay warm. Things are going to get weirder yet."
warrenellis  2015  elonmusk  tesla  energy  publicutilities  utilities  solar  apple  google  microsoft  amazon  facebook  uber  technology  capitalism  competition  electricity  batteries  cars  self-drivingcars  solarcity 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Minutes From a Meeting at the Bay Area Radical Transit Association Known as Lyft - The Awl
“Hey guys. I’ve got an idea. It’s kind of crazy, but stick with me. Getting around in cities, it kind of sucks, right? Things are far apart but it’s so crowded and the traffic is bad and you have to waste all this time driving, when you could be checking your email or your Twitter or playing Clash of Clans or whatever. And thousands—maybe millions—of people are facing this same dilemma. So, like, imagine if there were places you could go in the city, like designated spots, maybe like intersections or something in these densely populated areas, and these designated spots never changed, and if you went to them at certain times, you could pay a nominal fee to get into a vehicle of some kind that would just like take you to other spots within a designated area. And not just you, but like, practically anyone, like the public, man. We could call it…HotSpots. I know it’s like almost cheesy but I think it works really well because the spots are popular, like hot, and I really think that people will need something familiar, because like wireless hotspots, to wrap their head around this concept, because it’s so totally radical.”

“Wow. It could fail miserably because no one’s ever done anything like that, but we have to try. We just have to. Not just for the public. But for our investors.”

[via: https://twitter.com/karenmcgrane/status/573943818753605632 ]
humor  transportation  lyft  uber  masstransit  publictransportation  2015  siliconvalley  reinventingthewheel  cities  urbanism  urban  transit 
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
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
Breaking Down Without a Spare — Basic income — Medium
"America’s lopsided welfare system of counterproductive public assistance"



"Our current system is not productive. It is not the fully functional safety net we need, especially as technology increasingly disrupts our day to day lives. If one day we can be a driver for Uber, and the next day Uber can buy a fleet of self-driving cars and fire all of us, that’s a world where we need a real safety net that doesn’t just drop away. We need more than a safety net. We need a floor set above the poverty level, so that regardless of any amount of disruption, we are still allowed to stand on our own two feet and start climbing again.

Don’t catch us and trap us with nets. We need a solid foundation that allows all of us a space in which to build our futures.

We also need to understand that those at the bottom aren’t the only ones receiving welfare. There exists a great deal of netting underneath the feet of all of us. We just don’t see it. It is the invisible safety net, lacking in any stigma."



"But is that what the working Americans who work for them want?

Driving on Spares
It may have seemed a small detail and one possibly gone unnoticed, but it’s possibly the most important detail of all in our automotive parable.

“Unfortunately there’s no spare. We had no choice but to drive on it.”

It’s not that we made the unwise choice to go driving around without a spare tire. It’s that we could not make the wise choice, because our car had already suffered a previous blown tire and there was no money in the budget for a new one. After replacing our blown tire with our spare tire, we could only hope nothing else would happen until there was money for a new tire.

But something did happen. That’s the nature of unfortunate surprises.

It is this fact we must recognize, possibly above all. No one wants to suffer a flat tire, and no one wants to have no options but to call for help when we do get one. And we see this reflected in what we have done for decades now, as we have faithfully sought all possible avenues of increasing our incomes.

We went from one earner per household to two.

We asked for more hours and sought second, third, and even fourth jobs.

We got credit cards, took out second mortgages, and are now even tapping our own retirement funds."
universalbasicincome  economics  us  policy  taxes  safetynet  publicassistance  welfare  welfaresystem  scottsantens  2014  bureaucracy  socialsafetynet  stadiums  inequality  freedom  welfarecliffs  income  uber  labor  work  housing  ubi 
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
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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