"The worker becomes an "entrepreneur," and assumes the entrepreneur’s risk
Panelists noted the various ways in which the term “sharing” most often means a systematic shift of risk from the service provider onto the precarious labor and consumer.
On these platforms the “product” is the software, as opposed to the experiences that result in their use. Uber refers to their drivers as “partners” as a way to alleviate any inherent risks associated with assuming an army of full time employees, as Cheng pointed out. And Rob Horning reminds us, these independent contractors are the only ones who handle the risk of depreciating capital assets. Kate Losse noted that is tied to a larger Silicon Valley ideology that drastically privileges the technical work over the emotional or creative labor that form the end user content of the platforms themselves.
If everyone is an entrepreneur, can there be worker solidarity?
The workers who make up these networks have structural limitations to effective forms of resistance. Workers have little time to organize when they already have to work so intensely just to break even. Whereas factory workers could coordinate a slowdown, the sharing economy creates a distributed set of workers with little collective potential, prompting the panel to question the extent to which the freedom of “working whenever you please” weakens your ability to organize against an employer.
Such networks are in effect anti-communities, as Horning asserted with dystopic alarm, where users and independent contractors are pitted against one another, with the only unifying aspect being their use of digital technology to seek the best opportunity to exploit each other’s labor for the lowest rate. But at what cost?”