Technology is changing the way we work, providing unique challenges for both employers gauging prospective talent and for employees ensuring their rights and proper working conditions. Through a series of projects in the Stanford Cyber Initiative, Stanford researchers in the program’s Future of Work focus area are investigating how best to develop online work platforms and how policy can mitigate their negative effects.
“Our goals have been to envision what that future might look like, to build technology to empower new forms of organizing and to understand what impact these platforms are going to have on people,” said Michael Bernstein, an assistant professor of computer science. Bernstein and Melissa Valentine, an assistant professor in management science and engineering created Foundry an online platform where people can create their own company. The company’s workers are comprised of flash teams, online groups of experts in specific fields. Foundry’s ability to adapt to the varied requirements of its owners and its egalitarian model – allowing any of its members to make changes to their business platform.
But the Cyber Initiative has concerns about workers’ rights on these sorts of online platforms, particularly because most online workers are contracted for short-term projects, leaving benefits like health insurance, paid time off and job security in question. Margaret Levi, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and Bernstein looked to industries — like farming, the creation of railroads and the early development of automobiles — throughout history that followed a similar short-term model to predict the effects on workers’ rights and to find policy solutions.
Working alongside Bernstein, Valentine and Levi in the Future of Work area is another mediaX Thought Leader, Ramesh Johari, an associate professor in management science and engineering. His work focuses on rating systems and how they can be adapted to function for online employees.
Read the entire Stanford News Story By Nicole Feldman HERE