Bronwyn Amelia Fast Frey

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Toronto, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9899

Approve Date

October 25, 2019

Project Title

Frey, Bronwyn (Toronto, U. of) "The Datafication of Courier Labour: App-Based Food Delivery in Berlin," supervised by Dr. Andrea Muehlebach

BRONWYN FREY, then a graduate student at University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, received a grant in October 2019 to aid research on “The Datafication of Courier Labour: App-Based Food Delivery in Berlin,” supervised by Dr. Andrea Muehlebach. The fieldwork sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation focusses on app-based food delivery couriers and management. The app-based last-mile delivery industry is one of the most distinctive developments in capitalism in the last decade. Twenty-one months of fieldwork reveal that Fleatz, a composite app-based food delivery company operating in Berlin, represents a new iteration of capitalism in that the role of riders is not only, or even primarily, to create profits for the company through the surplus value of their labour. Instead, they are also subject to regimes of speculative data accumulation and of beta capitalism, an organizationally, politically, and financially volatile form of high-tech accumulation that emphasizes constant optimization, speed, and market growth, underpinned by a reliance on financial capital instead of profits to be economically viable. Subjecting rider labour to multiple forms of value accumulation results in a confusing, paradoxical, yet highly quantified work experience for riders and office workers alike, but the consequences are most serious for riders.