Freelancers of the world, unite in despair!

  • Labour union for anyone who wants to feel like part of something bigger
- KAREN CHEE

Oct 16, 2018-

Welcome to the Gig Economy Guild. We represent freelancers, independent contractors and anyone else who wants to feel like part of something bigger. Regardless of what brought you here (got fired, enjoy misery, forgoing a dream because a millennial has destroyed it, etc.), we are pleased to have you join our guild. Here is helpful information and rules by which all members must abide:

Upon entering a new office (read: coffee shop), identify yourself as a freelancer by asking for the Wi-Fi with a warm smile and a hint of apology (this is your regular speaking voice if you’re a woman).

When you ask other freelancers in the shop to watch your stuff while you use the bathroom, they gain legal ownership of your items until your return. Should they wish to sell your laptop, bag or young child while you are urinating, they may do so. We have no way to assist you in this situation.

People may shame you for checking your phone constantly; they are unaware that your work hours never end and that you must be on email at all times. Ignore those who scoff—they probably have “day jobs” and comfortable, routine lives filled with family, friends and bliss. Who wants that anyway? Check your email again.

You are allotted three guttural murmurs of “What am I even doing with my life” per day. Work hours may never end, yet you will wonder, “Could I be doing more?” The union hereby declares that yes, you could be doing more, and yes, you are a failure, and yes, that feeling of dread will either drive you to do better or make you sad. If you ever feel content, know that it is fleeting, and you should be doing more.

When switching from one gig to another, we highly recommend you literally wear different hats. This way your colleagues can easily recognise in what capacity you are working (“Artist,” “Architect,” “Dad”) and mistreat you in the appropriate manner. (Note: You must wear a top hat when working for a fancy person.)

If your clients are behind on your payments, the union protects you and your ability to email the employer to “just follow up” about your payment while clarifying that there is “no rush whatsoever,” because you know they’re also busy and probably overworked.Our health plan is: Don’t get sick.

The official line to introduce your work is “I made a thing,” which fortunately can be repurposed if/when you announce a birth of a child (“My husband and I are extremely excited to announce that we made a thing!”). When directing someone to your online work, you may write, “Link in bio” or silly versions of it like “Lincoln biography” and “Lonk bolonko.” These iterations are hilarious.

If someone ever asks you what it’s like to be a freelancer, you may send the official union-approved GIF of a hamster sprinting on a wheel—you know, the one where it has a blank, wide-eyed stare of panic as it runs ceaselessly with no evident progress.

Please sign and return this agreement. We do not have a real address beyond the Starbucks that we regularly meet at, so email is best. Thank you.

Other tools, like the rating system, serve as automatic enforcers of the nudges made by algorithmic managers. In certain services on Uber’s platform, if drivers fall below 4.6 stars on a 5-star rating system, they may be “deactivated”—never “fired.” So some drivers tolerate bad passenger behavior rather than risk losing their livelihoods because of retaliatory reviews.

To be sure, drivers are not simply passive victims of algorithms. Uber drivers figured out the upfront pricing scheme by sharing pictures of passengers’ receipts alongside their own pay stubs in online driver forums.

Their experiences serve as a useful warning about the algorithms that are so closely integrated into our daily lives. Algorithms determine the news we see on Facebook and the search results we review on Google. And whenever we use a ride-hailing app, algorithms manage what we do as passengers, by controlling and manipulating the information we have about the price and location of available cars. (The car icons circling your location onscreen, for example, may not exist in real life. Uber has said its goal is to make the icons “as accurate as possible in real time.”)

A driver in New York City told me about the first time he realized how upfront pricing worked. “A passenger and I started talking about it during the trip, and he offered to show me his invoice at the end of the trip,” he said. “Seeing it for real just outraged me so much! It was like somebody had cheated on me.” The passenger shrugged it off, until he saw that he had been charged $40 for a ride that should have cost only $28. “Then suddenly he got it, too!”

Whether we realise it or not, algorithms are managing all of us.

—© 2018 the new York times

Published: 16-10-2018 09:23

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