airtasker, the quantified self and the sharing economy

Screenshot 2016-01-29 22.47.37

This is ongoing collaborative work with Jacinta Baulbach and Stefanie Duguay (QUT)
and Ben Goldsmith (University of the Sunshine Coast)

This study considers the implications of the quantified self at work in what has become popularly recognised as the sharing economy. To do this we draw upon a case of Airtasker. Airtasker was launched in Australia in February 2012 and describes itself as “a trusted community marketplace for people and businesses to outsource tasks, find local services or hire flexible staff in minutes – online or via mobile” (Airtasker 2015). These tasks include such work as generating Likes on Facebook, household cleaning, assembling flat pack furniture, wedding photography, software development and dog walking. Runners and Job Posters (potentially one in the same) inhabit the site and negotiate the terms of work on a task-by-task basis. Airtasker as a company provides the digital infrastructure for this negotiation work to occur and charges a fee to Runners – 15% of their earnings. Airtasker is rooted in ideas of collaborative consumption, contemporary notions of the sharing economy and enrols quantified self elements.

In this study, we demonstrate how narratives regarding the quantified self are presented by a range of actors in the sharing economy of Airtasker before a user joins the site. We also consider how elements of the quantified self mediate registration processes and the daily operation of Airtasker. Airtasker is a gateway to the neoliberal capitalist ideal of the free market, individual meritocracy, and the positive positioning of precarious work lives as allowing for freedom, flexibility and greater quality of life. At the same time, it mediates self-regulation through quantification of the self in a way that might be seen where workers hold permanent and exclusive contracts with a formal organisation.  However, in this case, those calculating consumers not necessarily set to employ these people may have opportunities to influence whether someone works, or not.