Director: Shannon Walsh
Producer:s  Ina Fichman & Luc Martin-Gousset
Editor: Sophie Farkas-Bolla
Director of Photography: Étienne Roussy
Written by: Shannon Walsh, Harold Crooks, Julien Goetz
Original Music David Chalmin
Country: Canada
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Duration: 88mins
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“The gig economy is estimated at over 5Trillion USD globally.” Also, “By 2025 more than 540 Million people will be seeking gig work through online platforms.” These are just a couple of key stats that hit you at the start of this documentary, and which are intended to remove any doubt as to what you are about to see and why it has come to this. The first overhead shot of a ride sharing bicycle graveyard in Shenzhen, China, clearly frames the metaphor of how “great dreams can turn into nightmares”, as the camera draws back to reveal the scale of the problem.
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The Platform or gig economy, such as food or grocery delivery has never been so popular, as more gig workers are lured by the promise of independence or flexibility to be their own boss and let their gig work output speak for them. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Uber and Lyft, Deliveroo, Hummingbird etc. are all magnets for workers of various descriptions, including: immigrants, skilled and unskilled people alike. This documentary shows there is a global invisible workforce of people, many of whom are unable, or unwilling, to get regular paid employment (e.g. ex prisoners, undocumented / illegal immigrants, or low paid but educated workforce in places such as Lagos, Nigeria, where for a few 10s of cents they can augment their incomes).
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Ghost work is a term coined by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri, co-authors of an eponymously titled book which holds that platforms effectively fold human gig workers into a computational process, which appears techno-magical to end-consumers who don’t realize that there are actual people behind the machine. Examples include Amazon’s Mechanical Turk which rely on human reviewers to clean up data, plus any number of human-dependent tasks which machines and AI struggle to do easily.
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The documentary also describes how Platform providers typically enter a market with a subsidised or ‘free’ pricing strategy, and by leveraging the network effect of their double or multi-sided platform, they can grow very quickly to dominate their market. This can lead to cut-throat competition between platforms addressing the same market, (such as the infamous food delivery wars in China), with heavily subsidized consumer propositions often at the expense of gig workers. The median hourly wage on Mechanical Turk is 2 Dollars, with workers across 190m countries many of whom only get paid in Amazon Vouchers. Some gig workers have also figured out ways to game the system. For example, a white American survey taking gig worker revealed that lesser represented demographics were paid more for certain political surveys so he’ll pretend to be a rare black republican survey taker in order to get more money!
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Uber and other ride hailing organisations consider gig drivers to be contractors and will often charge them for certain services. Furthermore, gig workers often suffer from FOMO (I.e. fear of missing out) so they’ll keep a constant check on the platforms, at all hours for jobs, which can in turn become addictive and unhealthy. So much for the freedom and independence they’d signed up for. Platform workers are often managed by algorithms tethered to their smartphones – there is really nowhere to hide. Algorithms don’t give a hoot about how workers feel, so accounts can get deactivated without explanation simply based on the wrong rating by a customer. Ratings are the be all and end all for the Internet economy and for platform gig work.
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However, workers are now trying to fight back with demands for more humane and reasonable working conditions. As the documentary ends, we see how gig activists, from France, Canada and even Silicon Valley, are starting to organize and fight back against these platforms, and this is only just the beginning. I believe this is a timely documentary that shows the real price of ‘freedom and independence’ and other promises of the wonderful new age of digital disruption and AI powered economics. This revolution has just begun.
The Gig Is up
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Film and music lover, producer and critic; Author, Blogger and Entrepreneur; Mascot (part time), Foodie (full time) and IT Consultant / Rights Management Evangelist (time permitting).

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