NYU Labor in the Mobile First World

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Barter Friends Project Proposal

February 26, 2016

When the Social is a Shared Economy Barter Friends is a mobile application which allows exchange of favors and tasks among a social network of friends. Utilizing the age old barter system, Barter Friends goes beyond money to the oldest form of capital, “social” value and utilizes it to allow people to connect via familiar means. With Barter Friends, you can create any task anytime specifying the means it might require to be fulfilled (Phone, Text, Video or IRL, for an in-person requirement) which can only be seen and fulfilled by your friends from social network APIs like Facebook and Twitter. However, to ask your friend to do a task for you, you don’t pay them. Instead, you negotiate a “like for like” barter exchange, helping them with another task that they need. In doing so, Barter Friends doesn’t only bring the social in age of technology to its logical conclusion but also allows people to benefit from the same […]

In Praise of The Algorithm

In Praise of The Algorithm

February 19, 2016

Or How I Got Rich While Ride-Sharing My Way on the Backs of My Non-Employees I think it goes without saying that bias is inherent among us all. So when, MIT Tech Review writes a post praising Uber’s dynamic pricing system, it is apparent that there is an appreciation bias towards their Silicon Valley counterparts. Overlooking the effect dynamic pricing often has on the Uber drivers, the author goes on to hail the algorithm for smart pricing during rush hours and lull hours. Some might argue that algorithms might benefit the drivers themselves allowing them to make most out of the ebbs and flows of demand. But it is also possible to make an argument that since these algorithms are coded by Uber themselves, the bias inherent in these algorithms is meant to benefit them above all. The dynamic pricing model is oriented to engage maximum coverage to supply the consumer demand and not to tackle the effective costs incurred […]

Shared Economy Optimism in the Age of Capitalism

Shared Economy Optimism in the Age of Capitalism

February 18, 2016

Arun Sundarajan’s post overlooks so many vital aspects of shared economy labor. Chief among which is the fact that his research conveniently chooses “hourly wage” as its criteria and doesn’t take into account daily wage into account. This is an important point considering many shared labor platforms like Handy, TaskRabbit et al require the laborers to reserve 9-hour workdays during which they may potentially be hired. This means that they are at the whims of customer demand, algorithmic bias as well as platform popularity to be able to work. Their superior hourly wage is offset by the fact that most laborers don’t get to work a full 9-hour day, meaning their net income daily is much lower. Obviously, the ground realities are much different. High-skilled manual laborers may earn more hourly wage but with lesser hours to work during a day, their eventual income is left at the whims of demand and platform algorithm.