The End of Location Theory? Some Implications of Micro-work, Work Trajectories and Gig-Work for Conceptualizing the Urban Space Economy

Authors: Lukas Stevens*, McGill University
Topics: Urban Geography, Location Theory, Canada
Keywords: precarious employment, urban planning, urban inequality, sociology of work, gender, mobile technology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A basic assumption that underpins most research on the urban space-economy is that economic activity, usually operationalized as jobs, can be located. Recent work on mobilities suggests this should be rethought as studies show that high-order service workers perform an increasing number of tasks at home, on the move or in third-spaces due to the emergence of mobile communication technology, particularly smart phones. It is conceivable that such flexibility seriously impacts the broad social, economic and transportation planning needs of urban residents. Yet, both public and private data collection tends to neglect the emerging mobility and flexibility of those whose low-income, unpredictable schedules, or lack of long-term security lead to precarious employment conditions, which women, immigrants and racialized minorities are far more likely to encounter. In this paper we suggest that economic activity relates to urban space by way of trajectories (punctuated by specific places) rather than by way of location, and that traditionally mobile service workers are equally affected. As illustration, we present exploratory results that examine the work geography of some Montreal childcare workers. Whilst their work trajectories seem to have become more complex with the advent of mobile communication technology, child-caring has always required mobility and has never occurred in a single location: the convention that economic activity takes place at particular locations, although increasingly divorced from actual practice, has only ever described certain types of economic activity.

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