Denise Celentano signs an article entitled “‘Be your own boss’? Normative concerns of algorithmic management in the gig economy: reclaiming agency at work through algorithmic counter-tactics” published in Philosophy and Social Criticism.
The article explores the normative concerns raised for gig workers by algorithmic management (AM), by embracing an ethnographically sensitive approach to philosophical inquiry approach to philosophical inquiry. Inspired by Michel de Certeau’s concept of ‘tactics’, the article suggests interpreting workers’ attempts to ‘trick the algorithm’ and escape some of AM’s constraints as ways to reclaim agency, in the absence of suitable organizational conditions for its affirmative exercise. The kind of agency specifically deployed by workers in cooperative settings is referred to as ‘contributive agency’, broadly defined as workers’ control over their contribution in multiple dimensions – epistemic, relational, participatory and protective. Contributive agentic capacities are not mere properties of agents, but organizationally mediated capacities that can be more or less enabled or constrained depending on the contributive context. It is argued that below a certain threshold, AM’s agency-constraining features are objectionable and desirable agency-enabling organizational conditions are identified in the four dimensions.