Delivering Edinburgh: Uncovering the digital geography of platform labour in the city

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article makes visible the unseen and obscured cycling routes of on-demand, app-based food couriers in Edinburgh, Scotland, drawing from qualitative research (twenty-five interviews with riders) and original digital data, gathered through smartphone apps and a custom-made mapping workflow developed in collaboration with student researchers and used by Deliveroo riders to track and map their delivery work. Qualitative research among riders suggests the presence of “two Edinburghs,” or a city divided not only by its physical geography but by the navigation of risks. Riders actively discuss the strategies they use to negotiate the city and stay safe while working, and the geolocalised digital data they produce reveal the ways in which such negotiations become collective navigations throughout the city. By exploring, visualising, and mapping these navigations, this article uses unique data to illustrate how on-demand food couriers create, modify, and reproduce social space in the city. Coupled with qualitative work, we show the dynamic, digital geography of these “two Edinburghs” and argue that it constitutes a powerful instrument to challenge top-down urban narratives that foreground the integrated, optimised flow of resources and labour as a hegemonic vector in the city.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1187-1202
JournalInformation, Communication and Society
Volume23
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • platform urbanism
  • urban hacking
  • platform labour

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