Bronwyn Frey is Visiting Research Fellow of the Urban Ethnography Lab at Georg-Simmel Center for Metropolitan Studies at Humboldt-University of Berlin from June 2019 – June 2020 conducting ethnography on app-based food delivery in Berlin.
App-based food delivery in Berlin
How can anthropological understandings of labour better account for the expansion of data-driven capitalism? The anthropology of labour is finely attuned to the varied economic, social, and cultural relations of exploitation in capitalist systems. However, we are only just beginning to turn our attention to the collection, analysis, and use of big data, which not only translates human activity into data to generate value but opens up a multiplicity of human-technology relations. My proposed research will explore how food-delivery-app couriers in Berlin, Germany, are simultaneously sources of exploitable labour and of datafication. I will examine the work processes of app-based bicycle couriers and tech industry workers (e.g. software designers, managers, PR officials) to understand the many ways that data is manipulated, experienced, and embedded in social, economic, and political dynamics. By examining how labour and datafication intersect in food delivery apps, my project will contribute to anthropological understandings of the shifting relations between technology, labour exploitation, and the multiplicity of human-data relations.
Bronwyn Frey is a PhD candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of Toronto. Her broad interest in the relation between culture, labour, and new technology have led her to Indonesia’s ride-hailing economy and food delivery in Berlin. More specifically, she is interested in how the social and political contexts of urban settings determine the development of platform capitalism. She is a member of the University of Toronto’s Ethnography Lab and the Berlin-based Urban Ethnography Lab at the Georg Simmel Centre. She is the recipient of a Wenner-Gren dissertation fieldwork grant and a DAAD-funded Joint Initiative in German and European Studies graduate research fellowship.