Uberland | Alex Rosenblat

Summary of: Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work
By: Alex Rosenblat


In the book summary of ‘Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work’, author Alex Rosenblat unfolds the true story of working for Uber and how the sharing economy is changing the employment landscape. As a technology ethnographer, Rosenblat details Uber’s methods of circumventing laws, exploiting drivers, and its ever-elusive algorithmic management system. The summary delves into the everyday struggles faced by Uber drivers – from ambiguous remuneration rates to hostile passengers and unresolved conflicts. Despite these challenges, many drivers appreciate the flexible hours and overall job satisfaction. Readers can anticipate valuable insights into the gig economy, historical context, and human implications of Uber’s rise.

Inside the Gig Economy

Alex Rosenblat exposes how Uber takes advantage of drivers while exploring the rise of the gig economy.

In the book “Uberland,” Alex Rosenblat delves into the inner workings of Uber and the gig economy it represents. As a technology ethnographer, Rosenblat provides us with an inside look at how technology is transforming the way we work and creating a sharing economy that blurs the lines between employment and independent contracting. Through her research, Rosenblat discovered how Uber subverts regulations and takes advantage of drivers through algorithmic management.

Despite these exploitative practices, many drivers enjoy the flexible hours and easy access to work that Uber provides. In fact, most of Uber’s drivers work part-time, often to supplement their income in transitioning between careers, for the flexibility it allows, or because they simply need a job.

“Uberland” offers a thought-provoking analysis of how technology is changing the working world and highlights the need for greater worker protections in the gig economy. Rosenblat’s writing is balanced and accessible, providing readers with a thorough understanding of the issues at hand. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the impact technology is having on employment and our society as a whole.

Uber and the Gig Economy

In her book, Alex Rosenblat reveals how Uber’s emergence after the 2008 financial crisis was a response by millions of Americans to the sharing economy. According to Rosenblat, Uber connects buyers and sellers through smartphone apps and provides quality control by rating drivers and passengers. By March 2018, three million drivers actively drove for Uber in 630 cities worldwide. The author also debunks myths about Uber, including glorified millennial labor and sharing rhetoric, that harken back to a time when workers in such jobs lacked labor protections and living wages; a legacy carried by women and people of color who performed lower-status labor in the domestic and agricultural sectors.

The Ugly Truth About Being An Uber Driver

Driving for Uber or Lyft may seem like a flexible way to earn extra cash, but the reality is far from ideal. Drivers work part-time and cannot communicate with each other, making it nearly impossible to organize for better pay and working conditions. The lack of transparency regarding earnings is a crucial issue as drivers have to account for expenses such as gas, maintenance, and taxes. According to the author, drivers for Uber in the US take home just $10.87 per hour after deducting fees, expenses, and mandatory taxes. Rosenblat points out that Uber’s algorithmic manager controls nearly every aspect of the driver’s job, from determining pay rates to mediating conflicts and suspending or firing drivers. This lack of autonomy has led to a high turnover rate among drivers, with Uber losing about 25% of its workforce every three months. While Uber may claim that its drivers are entrepreneurs, the truth is that they have little control over their work and pay, making it a bad job disguised as a good one.

Uber’s Dark Side

According to Alex Rosenblat’s book, Uber is more than a simple mediator between drivers and passengers. The company is known to pocket a cut of the tips paid by the passenger to the driver. In addition, Uber charges drivers for unpaid cancellations, inflates pricing, and keeps most of the money from lost wages claims. Rosenblat exposes Uber’s deceitful practices that exploit their own drivers.

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