Call For Participants: Log Out! Resistance Within and Against Platform Labour

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Our friends at the the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto invitesparticipants to an international symposium that will address forms of resistance within and against platform labour.

An emerging wave of struggles in sectors such as logistics, food delivery, journalism, and other platform-based sites of labour has shown how workers resist the casualized and precarious work conditions of the digital economy. Workers at app-based companies such as Uber or Deliveroo are hired as independent contractors and controlled through mobile apps. E-commerce corporations such as Amazon and H&M use logistics algorithms and digital technologies to speed up work in their warehouses. Web designers and media workers are increasingly employed as freelancers through platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr. Journalists and social media managers co-operate on and are monitored through Slack.

In these settings, algorithmic power is coupled with the material command over workers’ bodies, time and space. Yet while technology is used to intensify and subdue labour, it is also constantly met with resistance from workers. Think of the Fordist assembly line or the Taylorist numerical control machine and the cycles of struggles they generated. If the platform and the app may be today’s core technologies to organize and intensify work, only recently research in media and technology studies has started to focus on workers in the digital economy as active subjects that challenge the patterns shaped by the platform as they unionize or organize for improved conditions, higher wages, predictable scheduling, and better benefits. Indeed scholarship on digital labour tends to overlook the key role of worker refusal, organizing and struggle in future processes of liberation.

The symposium will focus on the role of digital technologies in re-organizing labour processes and forms of worker resistance. We are interested in empirical and theoretical contributions that address worker organizing and unionization, strikes, work refusal, algorithm hacking, tactical interventions, as well as the material and political economic components of resistance to platform-based labour. Both academic and activist critical perspectives on platform labour and politics are welcome.

The symposium is funded by the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology and organized by its working group on platform labour. It is co-sponsored by the ICCIT (Institute for Communication, Culture, Information and Technology) and the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Confirmed speakers include:
Nick Dyer-Witheford, Western University
Kristy Milland, McMaster University and TurkerNation
Alex Rosenblat, Data & Society
Jamie Woodcock, London School of Economics

Please send an extended abstract in English (750 words) as well as a short biography (200 words) to Alessandro Delfanti at a.delfanti@utoronto.ca by October 27, 2017.

The results of the selection will be announced by November 15. The symposium is planned for March 6, 2018. Funding for travel and accommodation will be available for accepted speakers. Selected papers are invited to be published in a special issue for a media studies or technology studies peer-reviewed journal (to be announced).