Lindsey Cameron, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Algorithmic Autonomy: Manufacturing Consent in the Algorithmic Workplace
Lindsey Cameron


Winter 2021
Lecture Time: 
Friday, January 22, 2021 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 


This research explores how the shift from human to algorithms as managers affects the nature of worker experience and autonomy, namely a new form of social relations of production. Drawing on a four-year qualitative study of the ride-hailing industry, I describe the experience of being managed by algorithms, conceptualizing the phenomenon of algorithmic work: a set of job-related activities that is constituted, to some extent, by a set of instructions programmed by a computer. I begin with describing how algorithm structure the work through managing the work process at multiple sites of human-algorithm interactions. While some research suggests that this introduction of algorithms creates a management system that snuffs out autonomy; I find the reconfiguration of the work process actually allows for more instances of worker autonomy. In algorithmic autonomy, workers have the ability to express autonomy at every interaction with the algorithm, ultimately producing consent to the work arrangement. However, in contrast to existing research on consent, I find that consent in the algorithmic workplace is more fragile in that consent must be constantly requested and obtained at each stage of the work process at every algorithmic interaction.

Recording & Additional Notes