Working for an app: Organizational boundaries, roles, and meaning of work in the “on-demand” economy

Anna Roberts, Charlene Zietsma

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


What happens to nonelite workers’ meaning, belonging, and identity when work is “on-demand”? On-demand organizations, such as Uber and TaskRabbit, have ambiguous boundaries and locations of workers. This qualitative study investigated how organizational and societal boundary discourse and the organization of the work itself, constructed sometimes conflicting worker roles that influenced how ride-hailing workers understood the boundaries of the on-demand organization and their location with respect to it. The roles of app-user and driver-partner constructed ride-hailing workers as outside the boundaries of the organization, while the driver-bot role constructed them as (nonhuman) elements of organizational technology. While the driver-partner role had positive and empowering identity, meaning, and belongingness associations, its conflict with the other roles blocked these positive associations, and led to cynicism and fatalism. We reflect on the possible impacts of the on-demand economy on society, workers, and the practice of work, particularly for nonelite workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages31
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
ISSN (Print)0733-558X

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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