The Algorithmic Management of Production Exposed, the Case of Uber in Montreal.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Rabih JAMIL, Département de Sociologie, Université de Montréal, Canada

From Silicon Valley to the world market, the capital venture enterprises are disrupting value chains and revolutionizing the processes of production. Sectors like transportation, logistics and hospitality are being globally disrupted by startups like Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb. This new form of capitalist organizations recalls the concept of the ‘network enterprises’ (Castells M., 2000) which integrate the production chains on the global level and disperse labour in the local market.

Using their taxi hailing application, in less than a decade, Uber became the world largest transportation company without owing a single car. However, their model of algorithmic management of production allowed the company to become the world “Data-mine” on global transportation movement and traffic. In this context, the proposed paper aims at deconstructing the value chain of the company and exposing the configuration of relations that binds workers, users and the electronic application (Algorithm). Subsequently, it seeks to illustrate the organizational structure of Uber and evaluate it against the Atkinson’s model of flexible firm (1984) and the mechanism of labour centrifugation (Durand. 2004).

This research work is part of an ongoing doctoral study which investigates the Uber model of application-based capitalism in the city of Montreal. To do so, it adopts a relational ethnography method (Emirbayer M., 1997 & Desmond M., 2014) and builds on more than one year of participant observations as a user of Uber application and on social media. Moreover, it benefits from the findings of various semi-structured interviews with drivers and customers as well as an extensive literature review of key research works and relevant publicly accessed documents (promotions, public statements, judiciary verdicts).