From Iron Cage to Digital Cage: Platform Control in the New Gig Economy

Jiahui He, Xiaoyun Xie, Wu Liu

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingConference article published in proceeding or bookAcademic researchpeer-review


This qualitative research challenges the underlying assumption of previous research on gig workers in the gig economy. Specifically, this study proposes that gig workers in technology-mediated platforms are not the “freelances” who work with high autonomy as the literature indicates. Instead, due to advanced technologies such as digital equipment and algorithms, platforms often exert great controls over the gig workers of their ecosystem. Drawing on interviews with gig workers in one of the world’s leading mobile transportation and local services platforms in China, this research reveals the control tactics and five characteristics of platform control in the new gig economy: opaqueness, imbalance, incessancy, dehumanization, and spirality. Through the vivid depiction of technology-mediated platform control, our findings contribute new understandings of the new gig economy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAcademy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Event2021 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - Online
Duration: 29 Jul 20214 Aug 2021


Conference2021 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management

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