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Intangible commodities with free delivery: Finding the limit in digitally mediated e-commerce and workforce injustice

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Published
Publication date2018
Host publicationLIMITS '18 Proceedings of the 2018 Workshop on Computing within Limits
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherACM
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781450365758
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Increasingly digital technology is implicated in promoting ever more convenient access to products and services. At just a click, user interfaces promote ‘instant gratification’, deliberately leveraging human behaviours and addictions, to promote frequent interactions and drive consumer demand. Behind the friendly interface, digital services hide the com- plex impacts and externalities associated with products and services, which often involve human actors. This, coupled with the lack of attachment and transparency of the under- lying actions and processes contributes towards a model in which consumerism is encouraged, and workforces can eas- ily be marginalised as part of services that promote limitless growth in consumption. In this article we use the example of ‘free’ parcel deliveries where digital services hide the true impact and costs of consumer actions, and are leveraged by industry to gain competitive advantage. To help prompt dis- cussion surrounding the role of technology and technologists in challenging the assumptions behind this conspicuous con- sumption and the impacts on workforces and infrastructures, we focus on two main themes for further exploration: 1) the impact of e-commerce on the social justice of delivery work- forces; and, 2) how we might find a limit in e-commerce to help curb limitlessness in the demand on energy intensive infrastructures and parcel delivery services.