For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Algorithms at Work: The New Contested Terrain of Control"

by Kellogg, Katherine C; Valentine, Melissa A; Christin, Angèle (2020)


The widespread implementation of algorithmic technologies in organizations prompts questions about how algorithms may reshape organizational control. We use Edwards? (1979) perspective of ?contested terrain,? wherein managers implement production technologies to maximize the value of labor and workers resist, to synthesize the interdisciplinary research on algorithms at work. We find that algorithmic control in the workplace operates through six main mechanisms, which we call the ?6 Rs??employers can use algorithms to direct workers by restricting and recommending, evaluate workers by recording and rating, and discipline workers by replacing and rewarding. We also discuss several key insights regarding algorithmic control. First, labor process theory helps to highlight potential problems with the largely positive view of algorithms at work. Second, the technical capabilities of algorithmic systems facilitate a form of rational control that is distinct from the technical and bureaucratic control used by employers for the past century. Third, employers? use of algorithms is sparking the development of new algorithmic occupations. Finally, workers are individually and collectively resisting algorithmic control through a set of emerging tactics we call algoactivism. These insights sketch the contested terrain of algorithmic control and map critical areas for future research.

Key Passage

organizational scholarship has not kept pace with the ways that algorithmic technologies have the potential to transform organizational control in profound ways, with significant implications for workers (p.367)


Management, Algorithms, Arificial Intelligence, Labor Resistance, Algorithmc Control


Resistance to/at Work, Automation

Links to Reference



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