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Cooperative affordances: How instant messaging apps afford learning, resistance and solidarity among food delivery workers

Bonini, Tiziano, Trere, Emiliano ORCID:, Yu, Zizheng, Singh, Swati, Cargnelutti, Daniele and López-Ferrández, Francisco Javier 2024. Cooperative affordances: How instant messaging apps afford learning, resistance and solidarity among food delivery workers. Convergence 30 (1) , pp. 554-571. 10.1177/13548565231153505

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This paper aims to understand the practices and meanings associated with the creation and use of private chat groups on instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger and WeChat that are accessible only to platform workers of online food delivery services. We draw on participant observation in five countries (Italy, Spain, Mexico, China, and India), in-depth interviews with 68 food delivery couriers and digital ethnography (Pink et al., 2015) within dozens of online private chat groups of food delivery workers. Our fieldwork shows that private chat groups are extremely relevant in the daily work of delivery workers and are appropriated to restore forms of mutualism not afforded by the food delivery apps. Following Costa (2018) and her concept of affordances-in-practice, we describe how the practice of online private chat groups created by platform workers affords: (1) the emergence of communities of practice; (2) resistance and contempt; (3) mutualism and solidarity. We argue that these workers ‘enact’ the affordances of instant messaging apps, to supplement – from below – the affordances of food delivery apps that were denied or ignored by food delivery companies. We argue that these affordances constitute cooperative affordances. This concept captures the cooperative nature of peer-to-peer communication that occurs within the informal online chat groups created by the workers themselves. Finally, this article contributes to affordance theory by highlighting how affordances are not immanent properties of artifacts, or ‘invariants’, as argued by Gibson (1979), but can be ‘enacted’ by specific users, like food delivery workers, within specific social and cultural contexts.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1354-8565
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 January 2023
Date of Acceptance: 9 January 2023
Last Modified: 07 May 2024 13:48

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