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Ulrika Westrup.

Ulrika Westrup

Universitetslektor, docent

Ulrika Westrup.

In Absence of a Working Place : A Gig Worker’s Sense Making of Work Community


  • Alina Lidén
  • Malin Espersson
  • Ulrika Westrup

Summary, in Swedish

In recent years, gig work – short-term and temporary assignments mediated via digital platforms – has captured the interest of media and research and is growing as an area of academic inquiry. Previously research has mainly focused on the regulations and breadth of gig work. Gig work can be been understood as a significant break from ‘standard employment relationship’, meaning that we are now heading towards a new phase of organisation of work. Gig work is often described as a lonely, risky, precarious work, and lacking the sense of community provided by a common workplace. Gig work is also described as offering flexibility, variety, allowing the worker to choose when, how much and with whom to work. Common for these two ways of describing gig work is the absence of a physical work place shared with other gig workers.

Much of the literature deals with the juridical status or the working conditions of the gig work. However, more recent research is also addressing the emotional side of the gig work and how gig work is experienced and the bulk of literature pinpoints the negative feelings associated with performing gig work. Other studies address the negative feelings related to uncertainty and the fear of loosing work. Further aspects raised by the literature are related to communication and how poor communication contributes to negative feelings of uncertainty and feeling devaluated. One study has focused on the effect of deficient communication with platform owners when problem or conflicts occur. Another study addresses the lack of face-to-face communication platforms imply, while online communities can have positive effects on how gig work is experienced. In line with this study, another study scrutinizes the establishment of “holding environments” by gig works as a strategy to deal with the lack of a traditional physical working place.

Working life research has been instrumental in pinpointing the importance of interpersonal relationships for how individuals experience their work and workplace. It is the feeling of belonginess that opens for reflection on and sense making of the experience of work. Being able to reflect and learn together with colleagues is central to the feeling of belonginess. Hence, the goal of this study is to shift focus towards the collective dimensions of gig work and gig workers’ opportunities to feel belonginess to a social context. To better understand how belongingness is experienced we employ the concept of sense making. The concept of sensemaking rests on a combination of both thinking and action. Online communities and holding environments are actions gig workers organize themselves to make sense of their situation, to make it more orderly – which is a central theme of both organizing and sensemaking research.

Through sense making individuals engage in a process of creating structure and order among all experiences one is facing. The process of sense making does not happen in a vacuum, but in a context, through relations. The process of sense making can be understood as the relation between “frames” (moments of socialization) and “cues” (moments of experience). We chose the frames and cues framework to understand the present experience of gig work through the relation to the traditional view/understanding of work. It is also allowing us to capture both experience of earlier work, but also how work is understood. A gig work is, for many their first job, hence their frame is how work has been portrayed to them. For others, gig work is a choice; maybe as a counter-reaction to the traditional work. From a broader perspective, the lenses of the sensemaking perspective allows us to shed light on the changing understanding of work.
This is a qualitative netnografic study. The aim is to understand how online communities are used by gig workers to make sense of their situation, which for many of them is characterised with an absence of a physical work place as well as colleagues and managers.


  • Institutionen för tjänstevetenskap






Konferensbidrag: abstract


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Conference name

The 19th ILERA World Congress 2021

Conference date

2021-06-21 - 2021-06-24

Conference place

Lund, Sweden