Mediatization of Social Space and the Case of Uber Drivers

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Mediatization of Social Space and the Case of Uber Drivers


  • Ngai Keung Chan Department of Communication, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
  • Lee Humphreys Department of Communication, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA


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Abstract:  Digital data have become a form of “objectivation”, which affect how we construct social knowledge and organize social space (Couldry & Hepp, 2017). The workplace is one sphere that is increasingly datafied. This study explores how Uber drivers, a form of digitally-enabled service workers, contribute to the normalization of the social production of space through their interpretative practices of digital data in an online forum. Drawing on Uber’s corporate discourse and an Uber driver online forum, we analyze two facets of the Uber app and drivers’ mediated experiences: (1) the quantification and discipline of drivers’ performance through Uber’s rating system and (2) the coordination of spatial movement through location-related metrics. We argue that the underlying workings of the Uber app premediate expectations of service encounters and spatial movement. Uber drivers meanwhile develop practices which respond to and circumvent their own data contributions to the system. Drivers’ practices, we argue, are largely in compliance with the calculative logics set by Uber. The article addresses implications of Uber drivers’ practices for the reproduction of social space and power-relations in digitally-enabled service work and the gig economy.

Keywords:  digitally-enabled service work; mediatization; mobile apps; ratings; social space; Uber; work practices

Published:   25 May 2018


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v6i2.1316


© Ngai Keung Chan, Lee Humphreys. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.