Embodying Digital Work on Instagram

Ms Nida Mollison1

1University Of Melbourne


The emergent temporalities and spatialities of digital work are giving rise to new forms of embodiment and new encounters in urban space. This paper explores how changing economies and platforms are transforming the working practices of Melbourne-based feminist artists. This research examines the ways that precarious work is represented, performed and enabled by Instagram, and how this local community of predominantly young women form an intimate public: a micropolitical, embodied context in which these bodies navigate cultural representations. The mobile bodies of these artists become visible and connected through this digital platform, its technologies and the spaces it operates in. This prompts a rethinking of hierarchies of ‘real’ and digital sociality and contributes to debates about labour, urban mobilities, and the micropolitics of space by recontextualising these livelihoods in networked space. This paper will draw on interviews with artists in Melbourne on the themes of creative work, online platforms, community and the city. The politics surrounding this historically precarious creative work are refracted through the immediacy and intimacy of embodied encounters and the circulation and production of this feminist art on Instagram. Through this case study, I will explore the potential of Instagram in producing new spaces, temporalities and capacities.


Nida Mollison BA(Hons) is a PhD candidate at the School of Geography (University of Melbourne). She is a cultural and urban geographer. Her doctoral research explores Melbourne feminist artists’ use of the social media platform Instagram, and how this helps to produce the temporalities and spatialities of their working practices.

Email her at: nmollison@student.unimelb.edu.au

Digital platforms: space, time and community in platform mediated work

A/Prof. Robyn Mayes1, Dr Penny  Williams1, Prof Paula McDonald1

1Queensland University Of Technology


As part of a broader program of Australia Research Council funded research interrogating the geographies and conditions of work and working in the platform economy, this paper presents a systematic analysis of the website content of online platforms offering care services, and those offering micro-task digital services. Drawing also on the findings of a national survey elucidating the contours of gig work in Australia from the perspective of workers, the paper traces the spatial and temporal organisation of work constructed by digital platforms and interlinked mechanisms of algorithmic management. The paper seeks to ‘ground’ digital work in specific locations, communities, and constructions of ‘global’/’local’ work/ers.


Robyn Mayes is an Associate Professor at Queensland University of Technology. She has a long-standing interest in mobilities of work with recent and forthcoming publications on trailing wives; fly-in, fly-out families; and geographies of digital platform work (ARC Discovery).  https://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/robyn.mayes

Platform Workers and the Development of Human-Data Capital

Dr Jathan Sadowski1, Dr Karen Gregory2

1The University Of Sydney, Darlington, Australia,

2The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland


By mediating everyday activities, social interactions, and economic transactions, digital platforms play an increasingly dominant role in both contemporary capitalism and cities. These platforms have excelled at extracting value from spaces/labour/things that have been deemed un(der)productive. While the burgeoning literature on platform capitalism and digital labour has analysed these systems of value extraction, there has been much less attention on how platforms have also undertaken a project of capital growth. Namely, through directing the development of a form of human capital, which is deeply intertwined with the creation of “data capital” (Sadowski 2019).

This paper details how developing the type of human-data capital desired by these platforms requires workers to invest in certain attributes such as flexibility, legibility, and vitality. Ultimately, we argue, this portends a bleak biopolitical regime in which people have to bear the risks of (self-)investment to be maximally productive, while also trading their autonomy for algorithmic administration, all in the hopes of obtaining regular income. This paper builds on empirical research into the practices of people who work for the food delivery platform Deliveroo, as well as political economic analysis into the operation of platforms and position of data in contemporary capitalism.


Jathan Sadowski is a postdoctoral research fellow in smart cities in the School of Architecture, Design, and Planning at The University of Sydney. His current research focuses on how smart urbanism is realised, from imagination to implementation. His ongoing projects include an ethnography with city government about planning smart initiatives and a collaboration with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics about trialling autonomous vehicles. He is writing a book for The MIT Press that critically analyses the design and deployment of smart technologies: the interests embedded in them, the imperatives that drive them, and their impacts on the society.

The Shifting Dynamics of Time and Work in the Philippines

Mr Justin Stern1

1Harvard University, Cambridge, United States


Today, cities are no longer constrained by local time zones. For millions of people in the Philippines, the work day now happens at night, due to changing patterns of labour caused by globalization. What are the local, socio-spatial implications of this nocturnalization of work? This is the question I address in my talk. I focus in particular on the expansion of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Philippines. BPO refers to the subcontracting of different aspects of business operations to a third party. The most prominent example is the “offshoring” of customer service work. In the Philippines, over a million people in Metro Manila alone now work throughout the evening to service clients located in Europe and North America. In this paper, I show how the expansion of the BPO industry is driving a new type of urban agglomeration, one in which issues of time – and the specific time zone(s) served – shape the organization of physical space, and influence urban design and planning practices. The presentation demonstrates that even those industries which deal in purportedly “dematerialized” information have pronounced material, social, and spatial implications.


Justin D. Stern is a PhD Candidate in Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His research focuses on the interplay of economic development, technological disruption, and urban form in the rapidly urbanizing regions of East and Southeast Asia. Hey may be contacted at: jdstern@gsd.harvard.edu

The materiality of the Internet: An expedition to locate the bones of cyberspace in Perth

Dr Shaphan Cox1

1Curtin University, Bentley, Australia


Accessing and sharing data through smart devices, whenever and wherever, is a key feature of our mobile and digital lives. This connectivity is redefining how place and space is produced. What is not well captured in social imaginaries of a mobile and interconnected world is the mundane infrastructure and equipment that enables and supports such practices. The materiality of the Internet, or what has been described by others as the ‘bones of cyberspace’, challenge the assumed ubiquity of the Internet and reinforce that our networked lives are always located in place. This raises important questions for geography. How do we see the Internet? What geographies do we enact when we log onto a network? How would our perceptions of a mobile world shift if suddenly all of the Internet infrastructure among us became transparent? In this paper I track answers to such questions by exploring emergent literature on the geography of the Internet and through an expedition of Perth to map some of this materiality. I contend that dominant imaginaries that assume the Internet as everywhere and nowhere reflect deeper problems for how space is conceptualised.


Shaphan Cox is a Human Geographer in the School of Design and Built Environment at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He coordinates the Geography program at Curtin and Open Universities. Shaphan’s research explores the politics of space and place.

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