9. Techno-Bodies

Necessities are accounted for in the space. It’s practical for work efficiency and quick amenities like getting coffee, making microwave meals or short toilet breaks. But the space is limited and I take my breaks in the same place that I work. The boundaries are blurry and my body’s trying to navigate. Hoping for a spare plastic chair to take a seat and nudge myself into the corner to be out of the way. There is no relief from the light, sounds or smells in this Dark Store unless I go outside for a cigarette break. It does make the cigarette taste that little bit sweeter.

In this space, algorithms play an important role. They dictate my work regime and govern my body movements. Apps tell me what to do, where to go and when to do it. With a tap, swipe or scroll, I inform the app when I complete a task to begin the next one. My speed is recorded and averaged. The manager taps away on computers that track my speed and navigation. I don’t know how they know but I’m always told when I’m “too slow”. Monitored by shift leaders, I’m told to speed up.

But algorithms do fall short. They say what to do but not how to do it. They don’t account for human errors, or micro-interactions that happen in the workspace. They don’t account for how teams work together or if they do. We learn how to navigate the app in ways that work for us: with a tap, swipe or scroll, we let the app know when a task is completed.

‘ ...the tools and equipment are made for specific bodies…The square backpacks hang low on my shoulders. I am not broad enough to sustain the bag’s weight or shape... ’

The app offers simple words and images, making the job more accessible for an international worker like myself. The riders come from all walks of life, ethnicities, genders and ages. And yet, while the technology can be used by all of us, the tools and equipment are made for specific bodies. I feel this when riding. The square backpacks hang low on my shoulders. I am not broad enough to sustain the bag’s weight or shape. It sags as the straps can’t be pulled in tightly enough to my chest. The coats are large and baggy and the bike seats are often too high. It’s all uncomfortable but this doesn’t stop me from working. I can’t help wondering how the tools and spaces are designed for certain bodies, maybe even ‘ideal’ bodies.

A project by affect lab. 2022