Introduction:

I am 19 years old and I do not know how to drive.

I grew up in New York where most people don’t have cars; instead they rely entirely on other forms of transportation. Now, more and more, this is becoming the norm everywhere with the invention and proliferation of ride share applications such as Uber and Lyft. 

Until I decided to tackle the subject of ride-share applications for my topic for our FILM 208 Class, I had never thoroughly considered how my life, and the lives of millions, would be changed for the better due to the invention of smartphones, and the subsequent democratization of ride share applications. Simultaneously, however, when Uber was first introduced to big cities in 2014, it was impossible to see the challenges it would face. 

Section 1: Competition: Within Rideshare and vs other forms of Transportation 

  • Subtopic 1: Taxis
    • Source 1: Kemal Dervis’ “Is Uber a Threat to Democracy?”:  
      • The article mentions the innovation and proliferation of Uber, stating that it “will not be stopped so easily” (46).. Due to the nature of this new form of digital media as a form of transportation, there is little to no way to regulate the use of Uber in comparison to Taxis. As a result of the privatization of companies like Uber, there are little to no rules to which Uber must comply. 
    • Source 2: Farhad Manjoo’s article “With Uber, Less Reason to Own a Car”: 
      • Manjoo, alongside the other scholars I examined, focuses on the comparison with Taxi usage and availability. He stated that there aren’t enough Taxis worldwide, more specifically in large cities like New York; thus, the efficiency and convenience of Uber is enough to change the way that we think about transportation in the future. This article, similar to the other NYTimes article, is relevant to my experience as it discusses the lack of need for a car; (mention personal anecdote).
  • Source 3: Joe Nocera’s article “Uber’s Rough Ride”
  • He argues that Uber is “a thing of beauty” because it “disrupts a business model that has existed for a very long time.” This second quotation is in reference to the competition with Taxis and Taxi drivers in new york city: the ongoing competition between the two platforms, and their drivers, is evident; Taxi drivers feel threatened by the presence of Uber. Due to the innovation of the Uber application and its relatively simple user interface, the application is functional and easy to use for people of all ages. Occasionally Uber is even easier than hailing a cab, explaining directions to the driver, and paying. He continues specifically mentioning that if you live in New York City, Taxis cannot even compete with Uber at rush hour. Uber’s ease of use and constant availability, even when its raining, reinvents the way that we think about transportation. This article is particularly relevant to me as it focuses on Uber’s competition in New York City; this also relates to my anecdote about my own life in my personal essay. 

  • Subtopic 2: Lyft vs Uber:
    • Source 4: Alex Rosenblat’s “Appendix Two: Ridehailing Beyond Uber Meet Lyft, the Younger Twin.” 
      • Main idea: competition within the rideshare industry, emphasized in the similarities and differences in the digital applications Lyft and Uber, despite the nearly identical business practices of Lyft and Uber. The applications, for the most part, function in exactly the same way with a few exceptions regarding the way that passengers can “rate” their drivers. According to accounts from several drivers, Lyft is a better application in that it communicates with its drivers better, but it makes drivers less money because it isn’t as popular. Lyft is marketed as a more positive and interactive environment, whereas Uber is a silent exchange of services. As Uber is much more popular than Lyft, Uber provides more resources to its drivers. While the communication between the company and the drivers may seem cold and robotic, it is certainly more reliable than that of Lyft. This chapter will be helpful in that it explores Uber’s competition, noting the pros and cons of each competitor’s application and the overall differences in how users interact with each rideshare application. 

Section 2: Political Impact: Rideshare Drivers (& Backlash)

  • Subtopic 1: New form of Work in Technology
    • Source 1: Alex Rosenblat’s conclusion of his Book titled “How Technology Consumption Rewrote the Rules of Work”:
      • Main Idea: profound impact of Uber as a new technology on the future of work. The central theme of the article addresses the idea that Uber is the future of practical applications of technology. The conclusion begins by exploring drivers’ perspective of Uber as a job without a boss. Most Uber drivers are left to fend for themselves when asking questions and finding information regarding the so called “labor practices” of Uber (198). Uber drivers frequent forums and other forms of social media to interact with other drivers. The employer-employee relationship in the digital world is unregulated and has no prerequisite: this digital aspect changes the nature of the work environment, drivers are working for a “faceless boss” (199). Uber has redefined the traditional meaning and structure of a job forever. While Uber drivers are few in number, their impact on “the role of technology in popularizing and expanding a longer-term trend in the growth of contingent work” (203-204) is large-scale; Uber’s impact on the way we interact with and participate in technology has eliminated the interpersonal nature of technology forever. Uber is also a form of social media because it allows individuals to be up to date with the newest form of participatory media. In our society, being able to Uber is a measure of class and status. Cities that do not have Uber suffer in terms of tourism and stable infrastructure: “Uber…changes the way we move around cities” (205). This article will be particularly useful to me as it concludes a larger novel that entirely focuses on the social impact of rideshare applications such as Uber. 
  • Subtopic 2: No Rules = Chaos in a New Sphere
  • Source 1: Kemal Dervis’ “Is Uber a Threat to Democracy?”: 
    • There is a large income inequality created by the Uber: the democratization of the platform creates a disparity of financial returns between the “higher ups” in Uber and the actual employees. Davis; however, recognizes that this age of new media cannot and will not be stopped. In spite of this realization, the article suggests that there needs to be some sort of new regulatory process to cope with the changing digital age. 
  • Source 2: Farhad Manjoo’s article “Can Uber Be Tamed?”: 
    • Manjoo’s second article, written 5 years later in 2019, discusses the classification of Uber and Lyft drivers as employees. In the five years that Uber has risen to fame, the classification and so called “rules” surrounding Uber and Lyft drivers have been discussed throughout legislation. I chose this article because it is recent, but also because it addresses the new sphere created by new forms of digital media. 
      • While Manjoo’s first article in 2014 about Uber was almost entirely positive, this article addresses the shortcomings of the application. One quotation from the article states “A lot of drivers understand that Uber has not been the best company to them, they know they’ve been treated like crap, for example by Uber’s long history of cutting drivers’ rates arbitrarily.” When Uber was first created, no one could foresee the issues surrounding Uber drivers rights and wages. Manjoo suggests that we should not see Uber in a completely different sphere than that of other companies solely because it is a form of digital media; he believes that we should hold Uber accountable for the mistreatment of its workforce.

Section 3: Economic Impact

  • Subtopic 1: No need to own/buy cars
    • Source 1: Farhad Manjoo’s article “With Uber, Less Reason to Own a Car”: 
      • Economic benefit to using rideshare instead of purchasing cars. 
      • Manjoo’s article, written in the NYTimes in 2014, addresses the implications of Uber on purchasing and leasing cars. Manjoo suggests that transportation scholars, or people who study patterns in the way we navigate the world, would never have fathomed the impact of technology, or transportation in the form of digital media, several years ago. Most importantly, the scholars would never have imagined a vast enough impact to “decrease private car ownership.”
  • Subtopic 2: Decreased Cost of Living
    • Need to find a more indepth source.

Section 4: Social Impact: Integration of Uber into Societal Norms

  • Subtopic 1: Uber as a Pioneer 
    • Source 1: Hannah A. Posen’s “Ridesharing in the Sharing Economy: Should Regulators Impose Uber Regulations on Uber.”
      • Posen suggests that Uber’s success is due, in part, to its ability to connect people to cars, and places, to which they otherwise wouldn’t have access. This success is predicated on the fact that Uber is so easy to use in our “always-connected world” surrounded by digital media (417). Additionally, she states that the services provided by Uber are unparalleled; Uber is essentially the experience of a modernized Taxi. One issue Posen finds is that Uber exists within a sharing economy; this new form of innovation is unregulated and needs to be maintained. Due to the digital nature of Uber, we must create a new set of guidelines for this new innovation; however, we must first explore the regulations on other forms of transportation, specifically Taxis. She concludes her argument by mentioning that the Taxi industry would never have imagined “that technology and innovation would create ridesharing services like Uber” (432). The innovation of applications like Uber have created a whole new concept that was once unfathomable.
  • Source 2: Joe Nocera’s article “Uber’s Rough Ride”: 
    • Nocera’s article first discusses the ease of use of the Uber application, describing how each function works and how the app charges you per fare. 

CONCLUDE

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