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Possibilities and limitations of digitally fragmented time: The embodied experiences of Deliveroo riders in Belgium

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This talk examines the temporal experiences of Deliveroo riders in Brussels. Deliveroo is a digital food delivery platform that mediates among hungry customers, restaurants who want to increase their take-away business, and riders that seek out the flexible work of bicycle delivery. From the perspective of the riders, digital platforms offer temporal possibilities and limitations. They provide flexible working hours, which allow people to make an income around other life activities, such as university classes, making art, and supplementing other types of employment. Yet, the flexibility offered through the platform represents a specific temporal possibility. It also raises many new embodied temporal dilemmas. First, new payment schemes and algorithms put in emphasis on bicycling speed and quick availability. The algorithmic logics are unclear to the riders such that they are uncertain what temporal ideals animate the platform. In contrast to the temporal discipline of the iconic industrial factory, the work rhythms of Deliveroo’s digital platform are unclear. What is clear, however, is that good digital statistics offer temporal benefits for the riders. Those with the best statistics are allowed to book shifts first, giving them better access to the temporal flexibility that makes platform work attractive to them to begin with. Secondly, in the midst of the uncertainties of platforms, algorithms and statistics, there are nonetheless some emergent temporal experiences widely shared by Deliveroo riders. These includes a particular type of digital waiting. The riders are bound to an app that they must continuously refresh even when they are not yet on the clock. Unable to engage other activities during this waiting period, they are tied to their smartphones such that their flexibility also comes with the downside of anxious anticipation. Overall, this talk probes the embodied temporal experiences of people who work within new data infrastructures.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year11 Dec 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 11 Dec 2020
EventData Times: Immediacies, Lifecycles, Forgettings - IT University, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 11 Dec 202012 Dec 2020


ConferenceData Times
LocationIT University
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