We are really excited to announce the projects receiving the FUSE Labs Research Award this year. We were impressed by the quality and volume of applications (almost a hundred applicants!).
It is clear there is a lot of interest in this area, so we will be looking for more ways to foster research and collaboration in this space. We will be having a session on this topic at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, for those of you who are attending, we hope to see you there. We are also hoping to organize other events in the future.
Sharing Human-powered Mobility to Improve Societal Efficacy and Efficiency
This project will design, prototype, and assess the performance of social computing systems that leverage human-powered mobility to transport material and/or complete small, discrete tasks. The project will focus on the development of three interconnected systems for sharing human-powered mobility. Each system will connect people based on established routes with small tasks and opportunities for transport. These sharing systems for exchange will involve specific modes of human-powered movement — walking, running, and bicycling. In each case, “appealers” would submit an appeal (e.g. buying stamps at the post office, watering plants, buying fruit at the market, etc.) and a preferred timeline for completion. Sharers would then use the system to see a list of appeals from people in their area with the option to select one or more that they want to complete. If there is a match, the appealer and sharer will be connected, and similar to systems like Uber or Couchsurfing, appealer and sharers will be able to acknowledge that they each fulfilled their end of the exchange successfully.
Barriers to Participation in the Peer Economy
This project will investigate the skills barriers, geographic barriers, and cultural barriers to participation in the peer economy. The researchers will observe providers as they seed, land, and close transactions with customers. One of the biggest known-unknowns is whether disadvantaged communities can realistically benefit from the peer economy. Cities and foundations want to design and provide resources for their communities of concern but are unwilling to bet on the peer economy (or even reject it outright) until there is concrete, on-the-ground data. If cities and institutions can make informed decisions from this study, their decisions will fundamentally shape the future of the peer economy and its credibility in the public eye.
Faceless E-Hails: Uber and Curbside Discrimination
This project aims to conduct research on whether the features of Uber’s app, such as traceable customer I.D.’s, guaranteed cashless payment, customer ratings, and the potential for e-hails in lower-traffic neighborhoods, can forestall instances of curbside discrimination against customers whose appearance, demeanor, or inferred destination signals to drivers that they are less desirable customers. The team seeks to better understand how customer selection dynamics are shaped by the technologies of the so-called sharing economy by surveying and interviewing former and current Yellow Taxi drivers who have become Uber drivers in New York City and its greater metropolitan area. While the investigation will center on whether these drivers now pick up fares that, had they been taxi drivers, they might have declined at first glance, the team will also investigate future questions that could be asked about how Uber’s algorithms train drivers to behave in new and novel ways toward the ride-taking customer base; and how well the drivers’ experiences match up with the rhetoric about the peer economy.
The Peer Economy as Virtual Workplace Emerging Practices, Policies, and Organizational Identities
This project aims to investigate how work in peer economies change participants’ own subjective identities and expectations of what work can and should look like and their identification with and attachments to particular organizations and platforms. For example, how do these platforms provide new skills and extend social networks that can be mobilized for paid endeavors? How do they support work and workers through new revised forms of institutional logics and support paid work in new and creative ways? What policy responses to work and employability are emerging that will impact peer economy platforms? In other words, to what extent are peer economies changing how workers themselves constitute what good work is across a variety of types of production?
Image credit: throgers