The Tinder logic: How gig economy matchmaking websites promote lookism, objectification of domestic workers and sexual entitlement of male clients

Wiesböck, LauraORCID: (2023) The Tinder logic: How gig economy matchmaking websites promote lookism, objectification of domestic workers and sexual entitlement of male clients. Gender, Work and Organization 13th International Interdisciplinary Conference, 28-30 June 2023, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

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In recent years, platform mediated work has been on a rise. While most studies on the gig-economy focus on male-dominated service sectors (e.g. ride-hailing or food delivery), platform-mediated cleaning services have so far received little attention. In the sense that domestic work is predominantly provided by people with marginalized gender identities, this imbalance reflects an institutional gender bias. Although some scholars aim to counter this bias by examining working conditions of domestic cleaners in the gig-economy, literature that scrutinizes the design and functioning of cleaning platform websites serving as intermediaries between cleaners and clients is still lacking.
Developing an understanding of the technology that connects service providers with potential clients is crucial because the layout, the algorithms and the affordances of platforms shape the interaction between domestic workers and customers. Since the technological design of platforms has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities, there is a need for research on the impact of the websites setup on female domestic cleaning staff working on the black-market, a particularly vulnerable group which lacks social protection and occupational safety. Therefore, this paper examines the normative structures that are integrated in the design of Austria’s largest domestic-work-providing platform ‘’ (part of Europe) and analyzes the implications arising for the professional relationship.
The data collection is based on the walkthrough method. This technique is used for a systemic step through of the website and thereby allows to make its implicit technological mechanisms and embedded assumptions explicit and visible. The data is then interpreted by applying discursive interface analysis, which provides a critical perspective on power imbalances occurring in the design and the functional, cognitive and sensory affordances of the interface. Questions such as “What beliefs are reinforced through the functions (what should the user want)?” and “What are the consequences of design choices” guide the interpretation process. Furthermore, the methodological design is complemented by 15 problem-centered interviews with female platform-based cleaners working in private households in Vienna in the informal economy.
The analysis suggests that from a client’s perspective, the interface of the platform resembles the design of the dating app ‘Tinder’. The visual presentation of cleaners is prioritized and paired with information on their age, location, years of experience as well as their rating score. Clients are asked whether they are interested - not in the service provision but - in the respective person (‘Interested in ‘name’?’). Altogether the Tinder design logic and the focus on cleaner’s profile picture promote the idea that domestic workers are expected to provide erotic capital. This is also reflected in the experience of female home cleaners in our sample, who are confronted with the new requirement of visually presenting themselves in appealing ways in order to get gigs, and report regular requests for sexual favors or discrimination in the form of lookism by male clients. Overall, the results show the centrality of the platform infrastructure design in co-shaping and transforming the organization of domestic work in the informal economy.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Event Organiser: GWO
Research Units: Current Research Groups > Education and Employment
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2023 11:31
Last Modified: 14 Aug 2023 11:31

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