Digital mobile workers: exploring new ways of dwelling-in-labour in the Chilean platform economy

Authors: Constanza Ulriksen-Moretti*, Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, Universidad De Chile, Paola Jiron, Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, Universidad de Chile
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: platform economy, app drivers, delivery workers, mobile forms of daily life, Chile
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 34
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The so-called GIG economy is producing significant changes in the way of working through digitalization. “Digital mobile workers” (DMW) usually work on the move, using digital platforms to carry out one or several jobs. They usually experience illegal, atypical and precarious employment situations, conditions often seen as part of the “informal economy”. What are the new ways of living that are generated from the labor practices of these DMW? We propose the concept of "dwelling-in-labour", which seeks to expand traditional approaches of residential dwelling towards mobile forms of daily life, where the limits between dwelling and labour become diffused, intertwined, and conflated within time-space dimensions that surpass fixed places and working hours (Jirón & Imilán, 2015). The study focuses on the city of Santiago, particularly on two types of DMW: app drivers and delivery workers, selected according to gender, age, nationality and district of residence. We draw on an intersectionality approach, attempting to reflect the intricate inequalities molded by digital transformation of the economy, multiple layers of inequality which are spatially constituted (McDowell, 2008; Christensen & Jensen, 2012). The empirical work focuses on two sources: secondary information to characterize DMW and ethnographic observation of their labor practices and uses of space. The relevance of this research is multiple, since not only is there a lack of quantitative data to characterize these new working lives and the impact these practices have on cities, but also a lack of qualitative understandings of new social inequalities that can transform into future socio-territorial conflicts.

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