new essay by Elizabeth Fetterolf: “It’s Crowded at the Bottom: Trust, Visibility, and Search Algorithms on”

We’re excited to share a new publication from Elizabeth Fetterolf, on how care workers perform their trustworthiness, and how platform algorithms grant them different kinds of visibility. Elizabeth is currently the research assistant for the Social Media Collective, having recently completed their M.Sc. in Sociology at the University of Oxford. “It’s Crowded at the Bottom: Trust, Visibility, and Search Algorithms on” was just published in the Journal of Digital Social Research. Here’s the abstract:

Trust, visibility, and the deepening of existing inequalities are major themes within the platform care work literature. However, no study to date has applied these themes to an analysis of worker profiles. I investigate both how workers communicate trustworthiness through their profiles on, the world’s largest care work platform, and which of these profiles are rendered more and less visible to clients. Through a qualitative content analysis of profiles (n=60) sampled from the top and bottom search results in three different US zip codes, I find that visibility is often related to connectivity, response time, and positive reviews, and who is rendered visible mirrors preexisting inequalities. The language of “passion” for the job is common across top and bottom profiles, indicating a contradiction between the deemphasis on professionalization and the high level of connectivity and responsiveness present in top profiles.

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