This project examines the unintended health consequences of Covid-19–related public health policies in the algorithmically governed instant delivery sector. As the government in Turkey advised all citizens to stay at home, retail companies seized this as an opportunity to expand their online markets and delivery outreach at the urban level. Instant delivery workers are thus squeezed between the government’s public health policy that encourages self-isolation and in turn increases customer demand for instant delivery, and retail companies that seek to exploit this policy. This project examines the bodily experiences of instant delivery workers employed by the two most popular delivery applications in Turkey during Covid-19. These two applications are unique in that they promise to deliver goods in less than thirty minutes. As the algorithms running beneath these platforms significantly shape the location, time, and cost of instant deliveries, their workers race against time in a densely populated Istanbul, incessantly traveling between small depots and ultimate delivery destinations. As such, risks of traffic accidents, work-related stress and illnesses, and viral risk overlap to exacerbate the already existing public health emergency for these workers. This project investigates how Turkey’s instant delivery workers manage the risk of Covid-19 at the intersections of bodily and psychological health, labor precarity, and algorithmic control in a supposedly weightless and contactless economy. The findings of this research will be used to develop humanitarian technologies and smartphone applications that prioritize the mental and physical health of vulnerable working populations.
Associate Professor, Koç University