Dissertation: Technology, Autonomy and Identity in Platform Work 

My dissertation examines the autonomy paradox–the tendency for workers to be constantly connected to work even as they are given the autonomy to organize their work–in the context of digitally mediated gig work. In management research, the autonomy paradox has been mainly explained by individuals’ desire to fulfill shared cultural expectations about what it means to be a good worker within traditional organizational contexts and remains underexplored outside the brick and mortar walls of organizations and inside the invisible walls of digital platforms. Further, the current literature on technology’s role in perpetuating the autonomy paradox is limited to the influence of relatively simple technological features (e.g., email devices' portability). However, human-computer interaction research increasingly suggests that advanced design features, such as streaks and auto-play, can also play an important role in cultivating the culture of constant connectivity. To better understand these important dynamics, I am conducting an inductive, multi-method field study of Instagram content creators and freelancers whose careers hinge on their online presence. Drawing on more than 50 interviews, participant observation, and archival data from Instagram official communications and creators’ discussion forums, I am developing three separately publishable papers that contribute to organizational and management literature on autonomy paradox, identity, cultural control, and technology use. 

 On-Call, Ready to Move, and Moneyed: Family as a Burden and Buttress for the Ideal Worker in a Precarious Occupation 

in an empirical paper, under review at the Academy of Management Journal, Erin Reid and I build theory on how workers in occupations offering mainly precarious employment handle their occupation’s ideal worker norm. Interviews with 102 journalists reveal a norm that includes demands to be both highly available and highly geographically mobile, but that does not promise high rewards for those who conform. We show how journalists’ attempts to negotiate the ideal worker norms in the work domain typically failed; most, worried about their finances, attempted to embody this norm through strategies enacted in the family domain. Our findings show how in addition to providing the household support necessary for workers’ performance of the ideal worker norm, for those in precarious occupations, families also contribute the financial raft that is essential to enable workers to commit to the ideal worker norm. We theorize a model of the ideal worker norm in precarious occupations that positions this as a person who puts work above all else, including above financial stability, and discuss new questions regarding the intersections between work, gender and family life in such work domains

Under Review–AMJ

Gendered Accent Penalty: An Informal Network Perspective on Employment Discrimination

In collaboration with Erin Reid and Aaron Schat, I am the first author of an empirical paper that draws on experimental methods to examine whether having a non-native accent has different effects on men and women's chances of being hired. In one experiment, we found that in recruitment decisions men are penalized for their accents more severely compared to women. We replicated these findings in a second study with a managerial sample and tested informal network attractiveness as a key mediator in the relationship between non-standard accent and recruitment outcomes and found support for our theoretical model. This study advances the literature on accent bias and intersectionality by shedding light on the interaction of accent and gender and broadening the explanatory power of accent bias in employment decisions. More broadly, this paper contributes to emergent research suggesting that hiring is a fundamentally complex interpersonal process fraught with biases rather than a mere skill sorting one. 

Plan to submit to Organization Science: Sep 30

Rise of the Techno-Precariat: Understanding Insecurity in the Age of Digital Technologies

Sean O'Brady, Hannah Johnston, and Michael Maffie, and I are developing a conceptual paper that considers how rapid technological changes in the workplace are fundamentally altering the contemporary organization of work so as to expand and entrench traditional forms of precariousness that were first identified in the 1980s. We focus on how the growing use of technology at work and simultaneous opaque power relations that are frequently embedded in technologically intermediated systems constitute a new form of insecurity. This process, which we term techno-precarization, reaches across the labor market and characterizes the experience of independent and employed service workers in a growing array of occupations. We argue that understanding this shift requires reflection on how technologies are reshaping the state of precarity, the processes through which precarity arises, and how precarity relates to class. This work advances how precarious work is conceptualized to provide a more accurate analysis of its current form in relation to technological change in the new economy.