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Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  197 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Silicon Valley technology is transforming the way we work, and Uber is leading the charge. An American startup that promised to deliver entrepreneurship for the masses through its technology, Uber instead built a new template for employment using algorithms and Internet platforms. Upending our understanding of work in the digital age, Uberland paints a future where any of ...more
ebook, 226 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by University of California Press
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Evgheni Costov
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
This would’ve been a nice informative book had it consisted of 40-50 pages. Instead, author repeats the same 4-5 main ideas many times throughout the book. Even though chapters have different names, it’s the same ideas, over and over, sometimes even using the same language.

The sharing economy popularized wider changes to work culture by conflating work with altruistic contrubutions, bringing into question the identity of workers and devaluing work itself.

Uberland is a book about how transport network companies, under the guise of being technology companies, are changing labor rights and the nature of work. Alex Rosenblat interviewed hundreds of drivers across the U.S and Canada to provide an ethnographic account of the lives of Uber drivers and the
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit that I started the book as a skeptic - how can a few conversations with some drivers really give an in-depth depiction of the behemoth that is Uber and the collective experience of its massive driver base?

I ended up finding the book to be incredibly thoughtful about the impact of Uber on society, technology, and work, and I appreciated the many anecdotes Alex Rosenblat used to bring drivers to life. In many ways, the book confirmed much of the feeling I have always had about Uber and the
Sampath Duddu
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Extremely repetitive. It felt like the author was trying to say the same thing in a lot of different ways in many different chapters. A lot of the information and occurrences are very interesting but are also outdated since Uber changed its policies.

I think, instead of solely focusing on Uber, should've focused on how technology and the gig economy creates weird and annoying employment situations and used Uber as a prime example. That might've gotten the point across better. Otherwise, the book
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, tech
This was a solid book that took an examination of Uber, as well as expanding to reference a number of companies facilitating the 'gig economy'. The conclusion of the book was nuanced. Although there have been a number of people unhappy at this growing job class, and it is primarily insufficient for full-time employment due to tragedy of the commons, these jobs have served well for supplemental income or those looking for flexible schedules.

The takeaway is that the value of flexible 'gig-like' jo
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Impressive fieldwork, very readable, highly recommended to get an insight into the everyday challenges of Uber drivers & gig economy. ...more
Carlosfelipe Pardo
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great account of a thorough research project about how drivers from Uber (and Lyft) experience their work, and what that means for labor and its definition. Really useful and provides potential answers to bigger picture questions of how work has changed and why, and more detailed issues of the mechanics of tech-enabled jobs and if they are well defined.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Rosenblat, "a technology ethnographer" (based on BA in History and an MA in sociology) has written a book that explores how Uber and other smart businesses used algorithms to disrupt the marketplace. Looking closely at Uber's business model she spent a couple of years riding with Uber drivers to understand how the company and its drivers interacts and how they don't always agree about how to understand the other. While the premise is interesting, her methodology is really more journalistic than ...more
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This was pretty good. The book made me think about Uber and the ramifications of its business model more deeply and raised my awareness of the plight of "independent contractors" in the sharing economy, as the conclusions drawn can be applied to other similar companies.

I parsed out a few key ideas, in random order:
1) Uber's classification of drivers as independent contractors is highly dubious and enables them to shirk labor laws, and their focus on "sharing" without acknowledging that driving
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Uberland will be of interest to anyone concerned with the future of work and the impact of tech platforms on policy. It describes Uber (as a representative of data-hungry companies, ride-hailing companies and shared economy platforms, but also as a company with its distinct culture) through five main themes:
- in context of the impact of the 2008 crisis, which has partly redefined work and what is necessary to make ends meet. And how some type of work stopped being considered as work, being re-la
So, there's a lot of good information about how Uber works in here. I'd definitely recommend it for an Uber driver, but there's a lot of angst as well. Some of the points are good - how Uber lacks transparency and fails to look out for drivers, even when its super easy like putting in a timer, but also in harder situations like sexual harassment. Some points are a little bit more mixed, such as comparing the taxi industry to Uber/Lyft, with a lot of discussion that really fails to discuss why th ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable read. I thought the author's perspective on algorithm-as-a-manager really painted a clear image of the new age of work and the "Avant-Boss". A pretty stark criticism of Uber through the stories of actual drivers and the legislative battles that the company has been embroiled in pretty much everywhere it has gone so far.

The author doesn't venture into making recommendations about how to actually deal with the issue, but it's hard to blame him for not having an answer to a question that
Cliff Chew
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you live in the modern world, there is a high chance that you have heard of Uber. This book does an interesting slice into the Uber's "disruptive-ness" in the modern world.

Using a mix of different research methodologies and interviews (covered in his Appendix), Alex Rosenblat documents the various practices that Uber has adopted and shifted across these few years, leading up to the exit of their founder, Travis Kalanick. This book definitely holds no punches, and the tone has been negative o
Neil H
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When you have a researcher which goes knee deep into her subject. You know you are getting quality journalism and Alex R does exactly that. Succinctly placing Uber and its hailstorm of a brand into the grinder. Spewing out its idiosyncratic, hypocritical approach to capitalism. Nudging the distasteful technological ideology it espouses to the limelight. Of course with the obnoxious Travis at its ill fated CEO it's bound to be be a catastrophe. But what Uber portends is the shaking foundations of ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting book and something that applies to lots of other similar industries that fall within the same trend as Uber. The author really cuts through the rhetoric and ideas at the heart of Uber's model, that it is a technology company rather than a taxi company, and that the drivers are self employed contractors. And how it uses the fluidity of these definitions to be what it needs to be in different circumstances to evade responsibilities.
It can be a little frustrating as most of the e
Jan 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
Although the concept of it seemed interesting at first, I can’t help but be disappointed upon finishing this book. The author repeats the same 3 or 4 ideas throughout the entire book, and doesn’t bother expanding much more on them. Sometimes felt like I was reading a badly written essay by a middle schooler who was trying to hit the word count. What also disappointed me was how biased the whole thing was, which I can somewhat understand but was still incredibly annoying. Only showing one side of ...more
This is an engaging exploration of how Uber changes how we conceive of work. Based on both macro examination of the legal frameworks that Uber has used to its benefit (defining itself as a tech company and not a transportation company, and treating drivers alternatively as consumer and independent contractors), and micro ethnography and interviews, Rosenblat provides a full picture from the perspective of both drivers, and the impact of Uber on the culture.

Obviously a very timely book well worth
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really helpful book to understand how Silicon Valley tech companies are disrupting society’s understanding of what work is, the relationships between employer and worker, and all the subsequent ramifications of these shifts. Lots of worthwhile things to think about not just about these companies on a philosophical level but about also as someone who consumes these products as a rider. Writing is OK; there’s a lot of repetition that I think could be removed if the narrative was reorganized/restru ...more
Samantha Anthony
Fascinating deep look into Uber and algorithmic labor in general. The author is a sociologist and journalist who has been doing fieldwork while riding uber (and Lyft) for the past few years. Very well done and some real insights into not only the lives of Uber drivers, their pay, their work, but how Uber as a company is changing the rules of work. Highly recommend for anyone interested in how tech is changing the world (for better or worse).
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is was a fascinating read. I think this would pair really well with The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior. That Uber views itself as a technology company rather than a transportation company so that it can circumvent laws has redefined the economy and the definition of an employee. Something we should all think about.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tons of information from the perspective of drivers, a lot of which is new and intriguing for me because I only know Uberland as a passenger (and a tech hobbyist). It reminds me the possibility of corporate tyranny (or more specifically, tech corp tyranny) that is shaping the society in its own way without letting people know.
Lisa Gulesserian
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read about Uber and the wider platform economy’s impact on workers, employment/industrial relations, privacy, tech billionaires and the future of work. Well written and will either change your behaviour or at least increase your awareness of the impact of platform based work on workers and consumers.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
It articulates things that bothered me that I couldn’t quite put into words. I would have liked a few more examples to back up some points, and the audio version got a touch slow in places, but a very worthwhile read
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
A researcher's take on uber's morally corrupt practices and underbelly of the big billion valuation.
You will see notions like Intellectual property, ownership, liability, role of mediator in new light.
Mar 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
People should not have be free to exchange what they own, it's the preachers who should decide who sells what to whom. And this mentality goes back to the dark ages, usually individuals who have nothing to give so they latch on the people's fears.
Mary Whisner
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Ryan Calo
Fascinating look at Uber and Uber drivers. Is it like Alice in Wonderland or 1984 when a company says that the drivers who are working hard are "consumers" not "employees"?
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Fascinating and could have used an editor.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't really like this. So wildly anti-Uber.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Alex does an excellent job of combining her ethnographic findings with the broader background on Uber.
Jeff Chen
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's eyeopening to see how tech company abuses the data collected and the trust.
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