Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 October 2020
When companies like Uber and TaskRabbit appeared in Silicon Valley, there was a collective media swoon over these new app-based service-delivery corporations and their products. Pundits and journalists made it seem like these companies were ushering in not only an inevitable future, but a desirable one. Their content helped convince the public and regulators that these businesses were different from existing corporations – that they were startups with innovative technology platforms designed to disrupt established firms by efficiently connecting consumers to independent, empowered gig workers. Those in the media normalized and at times generated this rhetoric and framing, which was then taken up by politicians, amplified by academics, and finally enshrined in laws that legalized the business models of these companies. The positive, uncritical coverage prevailed for years and helped pave the way for a handful of companies that represent a tiny fraction of the economy to have an outsized impact on law, mainstream corporate practices, and the way we think about work. The force that powered the swoon was a relatively new and journalistically problematic trend in media: “tech” reporting.