Phoebe V Moore

The Quantified Worker

LAIN: Artificial Intelligence, Platforms & Workers 25/10

Artificial Intelligence, Platforms & Workers

A Leicester Artificial Intelligence Network (LAIN) event.

Local host: Centre for Philosophy and Political Economy (CPPE)

When: Friday 25 October, 9.00 – 17.00

Where: University of Leicester College Court


Please register before attending

Register: Click here

or here:

9.30 Introduction


9.45 – 11.15 Social Media, Big Data and the Labour Movement: Exploring New Forms of Activism and Worker Representation to Raise Labour Standards. (Chair: Phoebe)

  • 9.45 – 10.05 ‘Datafication of the workplace: towards a data justice response’, Dr (Reader) Lina Dencik (Cardiff School of Journalism, Co-Founder/Director of the Data Justice Lab). The dual occurrences of constant data collection and use of artificial and autonomous systems in the workplace are having a profound impact on workers’ lives. Workers are subjected to constant surveillance that not only monitor worker productivity but factors unrelated to work. At the same time, machine learning systems are using these data to transform how work is being allocated, assessed and completed and as a result, worker lives and value in the workplace. These systems are implemented with little discussion with workers about why it’s necessary, what is being collected, or how that information will be used. What rights do workers have to that information, to ensure that data is collected fairly and accountably, and how are they able to mediate, circumvent or resist the implementation and uses of data? In this talk I will map some of the trends in data-driven systems in the workplace, from hiring systems to performance assessment tools, and discuss how concerns about data need to be situated as part of a workers’ rights agenda, the role of organising and the potential for data justice unionism.
  • 10.05 – 10.25  ‘Beyond mobilisation at McDonald’s: Towards Networked Organising’ Dr Alex Wood (Birmingham University). In this talk I use McAlevey’s mobilising/organising dichotomy to analyse the recent McDonald’s mobilisation in the United Kingdom. I argues that this movement has had some impressive successes but building on these requires greater organising activities. However, conventional union organising techniques are unlikely to be successful in hospitality. Instead, the approach of another low-wage worker movement OUR Walmart demonstrates how social media can be used not only to benefit mobilising activities but to enable organising beyond the workplace.
  • 10.25 – 10.45 ‘The Twin Peaks of UCU: Existential Surrealism on the Pension Picket Line’, Dr Torsten Geelan (University of Leicester) and Assoc Prof Dr Athina Karatzogianni (University of Leicester), Khamis Albusaidi (PhD Candidate in Media and Communication, University of Leicester),  Dr Ioanna Ferra (University of Coventry).

10.45 – 11.15 DISCUSSION

11.15 – 11.45 Coffee/tea

11.45 – 13.00 AI Platforms, North & South, Old & New. (Chair: Torsten)

  • 11.45 – 12.00 “It gets better with age(?) AI and the labour process in ‘old’ and ‘new’ gig-economy firms”, Adam Badger, University of London, Royal Holloway and Oxford Internet Institute. The growth of the so-called ‘gig-economy’ has been meteoric throughout much of the world. From bedrooms in the Valley, these firms have become prominent players in the global economy, taking in millions of workers world-wide. Whilst critical academic and policy insights have taken snapshots of these organisations, crystallised at a specific place and time, little has been done to establish patterns of change, or the impacts of these changes on a day-to-day level. Based on nine-months of covert ethnographic fieldwork working as a cycle courier for two platforms in London, this chapter addresses two key questions. Firstly, how the labour process changes over time within a single company; and how the labour process varies between a small company in start-up stage, and the ‘unicorn’ status market leader. Findings highlight the critical role of technologies in dictating the labour process, whilst also bringing to the forefront key events (in regulation environments, courts, and response to worker resistance) that have proven fundamental to the way in which the AI operates.
  • 12.00 – 12.15 Delivering Edinburgh: Uncovering the Digital Geography of Platform Labour in the City’ Dr Karen Gregory (University of Edinburgh). This research 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 deliverywork. 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 talk 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.
  • 12.15 – 12.30 ‘Platform Labour and Class Composition’ Dr Jamie Woodcock (Oxford Internet Institute). The rise of digital labour capitalism has become a key part of contemporary debates on how work is changing, the future of work/ers, resistance, and organising. Workerism took up many of these questions in the context of the factory – particularly through the Italian Operaismo – connecting the experience of the workplace with a broader struggle against capitalism. There are, of course, many differences between those factories and the new digital workplaces in which many workers find themselves today. However, the methods of workers’ inquiry and the theories of class composition remain a useful legacy from Operaismo, providing tools and a framework to make sense of and intervene within work today. However, these require sharpening and updating in a digital context. This talk discusses the challenges and opportunities for a “digital workerism”, understood as both a method of research and organising. It takes the case study of Uber to discuss how technology can be used against workers, as well as repurposed for their struggles. By developing an analysis of the technical, social, and political recomposition taking place on the platform, it is possible move beyond determinist readings of technology, to place different technologies within the social relations that are emerging. In particular, the talk focuses on how these new forms of workers’ struggles can be circulated. Through this, the talk argues for a “digital workerism” that develops a critical understanding of how the workplace is becoming a key site for the struggles of digital labour capitalism.

12.30 – 13.00 Discussion

13.00 – 14.15 Lunch


14.15 – 14.45 Negotiating the Algorithm: Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Labour Protection.

Prof Dr Valerio De Stefano KU Leuven Faculty of Law

Prof De Stefano has edited a Special Issue for the journal Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal (Vol. 41, No. 1, 2019) and the keynote papers focus on contributions to this Special Issue.

Special Issue Introduction here Prof De Stefano’s paper here

This paper aims at filling some gaps in the mainstream debate on automation, the introduction of new technologies at the workplace and the future of work. This debate has concentrated, so far, on how many jobs will be lost as a consequence of technological innovation. This paper examines instead issues related to the quality of jobs in future labour markets. It addresses the detrimental effects on workers of awarding legal capacity and rights and obligation to robots. It examines the implications of practices such as People Analytics and the use of big data and artificial intelligence to manage the workforce. It stresses on an oft-neglected feature of the contract of employment, namely the fact that it vests the employer with authority and managerial prerogatives over workers. It points out that a vital function of labour law is to limit these authority and prerogatives to protect the human dignity of workers.

14.45 – 15.15 The Mirror for (Artificial) Intelligence: In Whose Reflection?

Assoc Prof Dr Phoebe V Moore University of Leicester School of Business

Read paper here

The ways that technologies and machines are incorporated into society, and humans’ relationships with machines reveal ideas about what ‘intelligence’ is, or can be. But the invention of technologies that allow specific machines to come into being do not stand in isolation of their social circumstances or political economy, but have been incorporated into work processes and used to valorise living labour. To legitimately discuss artificial intelligence and its contemporary relevance and impact on workplaces and working conditions, this article starts by outlining the background for discussions about intelligence which have been attributed to humans and machines.

Moore’s findings show that intelligence has been continuously linked to quantification and with an overarching power structure where, as calculation and prediction machines advance, we expect ourselves as humans to advance, but only in direct alignment or even perhaps in competition with machines. Then, the article discusses how AI is being incorporated into specific practices in workplaces, emphasising the risks that these pose for workers particularly when given precedence for human resource decisionmaking and automation. Driving the thinking for this article lie the following questions: why do we want machines to behave ‘intelligently’? what do we mean by ‘intelligence’? and what is at risk when we ask machines to behave in our own image, in this case, what risks are posed to workers?

15.15 – 15.45 Artificial Intelligence is Watching You at Work. Digital Surveillance, Employee Monitoring and Regulatory Issues in the EU context

Read paper here

Dr Elena Gramano Goethe University Frankfurt Postdoctoral Fellow for the Institute for Labour and Civil Law and an assistant editor on the project Restatement of Labour Law in Europe (not in attendance).

Dr Antonio Aloisi IE Law School, IE University, Madrid.

New technologies are reshaping the world of work in an ever-growing number of fields. They have been redesigning workplace interactions and power relationships since ever, but the full potential of some digital instruments seems only partially unleashed as regards pace, scale and scope. The current wave of industrial development is acclaimed as the “second machine age”, boosted by the proliferation of cyber-physical infrastructure and interconnected systems making possible new practices of surveillance and profiling in workplaces, and the resulting gigantic datasets in turn lay the groundwork for the artificial intelligence boom. Only recently, however, international, European and domestic institutions have started considering how to update existing regulation in order to face the complex and far-reaching challenges posed by ubiquitous tech devices and, more specifically, by artificial intelligence (AI), a general-purpose application able to mimic adaptive and predictive “functions that humans associate with their own intelligence”, as it applies to work and workplaces.

Discussion 15.45 – 16.30

16.30 – 16.45 Wrap up

Organised by Phoebe V Moore  Torsten Geelan  Julie Chen

white laptop computer on white desk


One comment on “LAIN: Artificial Intelligence, Platforms & Workers 25/10

  1. Jacqueline O'Reilly
    September 7, 2019

    Can anyone come? How can I register? Jackie

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