Algorithms at Work : Control and Resistance in Platform Organisations

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Copyright: McDaid, Emma
This thesis examines the role of accounting control and labour resistance in platform organisations. In the context of disaggregated forms of work, the applicability of traditional modes of management control is unclear. As such, this thesis is motivated by the complexities and opportunities that characterise the literature on control and resistance in platform organisations. Uber is selected as the site for investigation. Drawing on interviews with 36 Uber drivers from Australia, France and Canada, and a wide range of secondary materials, this thesis asks the following questions: (i) how do we understand the control that platform organisations exert over their disaggregated workforces? (ii) what are the effects of this style of control? (iii) why and how do workers resist the conditions and control they are subjected to in the provision of disaggregated work? and (iv) what are the implications of this resistance on the management control environment? This thesis addresses these research questions by means of two articles. Combined, these articles contribute to the literature on accounting control and resistance in platform organisations as follows: (i) Article One conceptualises platform-based control as technocratic, where technocratic control is understood as control enacted through data accumulation and experimentation, and the corresponding predictability of worker behaviour; (ii) Article One argues that algorithmic technologies enact control with dividualising, as opposed to individualising, effects; (iii) Article Two conceptualises resistance as the workers’ opposition to constraining controls that are decoupled from the neoliberal promises of the platform organisation; and (iv) Article Two finds that resistance is mobilised because of threats to the drivers’ imagined sense of self-identity rather than because of threats to a narrative of identity already established. Together, the two articles affix the post-disciplinary foundations of platform-based control and labour resistance
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McDaid, Emma
Andon, Paul
Free, Clinton
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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