Theresa König (2020)


Venezuelan forced migrants in Bogotá: Digital platform labor and its implications for everyday urban life

Abstract   The socio-economic and political crisis in Venezuela has resulted in millions of involuntary migrants. Many of them cross the border to the neighboring countries and have the objective to work, often migrating towards urban areas. Bogotá, the location of this research, is one example with a particularly severe trend of rising numbers of Venezuelan migrants. With the challenge of making ends need, many of them do not have any other chance than to accept a job in the informal labor market, in which digital labor platforms have gained more and more importance during the past years. Their experiences and actions can have a significant alteration to urban life and, in doing so, the socio-spatial conditions of a city. This study attempts to establish a link between these phenomena and thereby contributes to the understanding of marginalized groups’ everyday life experiences. With an ethnographic approach and different qualitative research methods, including narrative semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and ride-alongs, it analyses two cases of Venezuelan forced migrants working in the gig-economy via digital labor platforms. One case looks at Rappi food deliverers, and the second one at Webcam models. By that, it allows a profound insight into daily struggles, routines, and thoughts, finally interpreted using theoretical concepts of migration, urban studies, and work. The findings, such as the identified work schemes in their daily lives, reveal diverse uses of public and private space, connected with discrimination in public life. For Rappi delivery workers, their constant presence in urban public space is a form of appropriation of contested space. In both case studies, immersive structures of physical reproductive labor on different geographical levels can be identified. However, for Webcam models, emotional labor also plays an essential role through intense contact with their clients. What is more, the analysis exposes exploitive work environments that show both formal and informal labor characteristics. The insights embedded in Latin American countries’ struggling economies give an idea of the vulnerable situation many migrants and citizens face when trying to enter the labor market. Overall, especially the rather particular details within each case study demonstrate the richness of studying urban life patterns and emphasizes its necessity for further research.
Submitted   at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning
Supervision   Dr. phil. DI (FH) Sabine Knierbein