Post/Pandemic Digital Labour Geographies

This session explores the varied struggles and successes of platform workers using digital labour platforms to earn a living through gig work during the COVID-19 pandemic ‘lockdowns’ of 2020 and 2021. Over the last decade, labour scholars have analysed the dramatic, digital transformations of work, employment and labour relations that have accompanied the extraordinary growth of the gig economy. Underpinning these transformations, the internet is used to unbundle production and value creation from formal employment, with digital algorithms and AI used to manage and motivate work carried out beyond the spatial and temporal boundaries of ‘typical’ workplaces by ‘independent contractors’. Over 163 million workers worldwide now use digital labour platforms to access paid work. Crucially however, the quality of those gig work opportunities has prompted growing criticism around attendant working conditions, wage theft, worker surveillance, worker data rights, and a lack of legal protections for ‘self-employed’ gig workers. These concerns have ramped up over the last 2 years in response to increased gig worker hardship, financial precarity and socioeconomic inequalities through the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, this session builds on digital labour geography sessions at the Global Economic Geography Conference 2018, AAG 2019, and RGS-IBG 2019 & 2021. It aims to bring together established and new scholars with diverse research interests around digital transformations of work, platform capitalism and the gig economy, to learn from each other and to explore new possibilities for animating more progressive platform worker outcomes in the global South and global North.

Specific topics might include: