Julia Ticona, "Left to Our Own Devices: Coping with Insecure Work in a Digital Age" (Oxford UP, 2022)


Hello, world! This is the Global Media & Communication podcast series.

In this episode, our host Florence Madenga discusses the book Left to Our Own Devices Coping with Insecure Work in a Digital Age (Oxford University Press, 2022) by Dr. Julia Ticona.

You’ll hear about:

  • Dr. Ticona’s intellectual trajectory and how her first monograph has been transformed from a dissertation project into a book
  • What audience the book is intended for and what critical scholarship means for the author
  • The design of the research project and the processes and ethics of conducting research about the gig economy
  • How the ongoing pandemic has changed or altered the way Dr. Ticona thinks about this book
  • The core arguments and take-away points from the book around keywords such as “digital inequality,” “precarity,” “platform economy,” and “digital hustle”
  • The global implications of a study on low-wage gig economy workers in the American labor market
  • The question of agency in workers’ everyday life and how people survive in the global platform economy
  • The gendered nature of labor in the gig economy and what Dr. Ticona calls “tethered care work”
  • How we can better understand the complexity of our mediated worlds and precarious work beyond the tech companies and digital platforms

About the book

Over the past three decades, digital technologies like smartphones and laptops have transformed the way we work in the US. At the same time, workers at both ends of the income ladder have experienced rising levels of job insecurity and anxiety about their economic futures. In Left to Our Own Devices, Julia Ticona explores the ways that workers use their digital technologies to navigate insecure and flexible labor markets. Through 100 interviews with high and low-wage precarious workers across the US, she explores the surprisingly similar "digital hustles" they use to find work and maintain a sense of dignity and identity. Ticona then reveals how the digital hustle ultimately reproduces inequalities between workers at either end of polarized labor markets. A moving and accessible look at the intimate consequences of contemporary capitalism, Left to Our Own Devices will be of interest to sociologists, communication and media studies scholars, as well as a general audience of readers interested in digital technologies, inequality, and the future of work in the US.

Author: Julia Ticona is an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, where her research investigates the ways that digital communication technologies shape the meaning and dignity of precarious work. You can find her work in New Media & Society, Information, Communication, and Society, as well as Wired, FastCompany, and Slate.

Host: Florence Madenga is a doctoral fellow at CARGC at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. She studies journalistic practice broadly and comparatively construed, and how certain existing journalistic models and paradigms fall short in different cultural contexts, especially in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Her work has appeared on BuzzFeed, in Chimurenga, Narratively, and other publications.

Editor & Producer: Jing Wang. She is Senior Research Manager at CARGC at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. As a media scholar and sociocultural anthropologist, her research and teaching focus on the anthropology of media and Islam, digital sound studies, and transnational feminism. Her works have appeared in New Media & Society, Asian Anthropology, Made in China Journal, and more.


Gig economy, digital inequality, precarity, platform economy, digital hustle, gendered labor, care work

Our podcast is part of the multimodal project powered by the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. At CARGC, we produce and promote critical, interdisciplinary, and multimodal research on global media and communication. We aim to bridge academic scholarship and public life, bringing the very best scholarship to bear on enduring global questions and pressing contemporary issues.

Your Host

Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication

The Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication produces and promotes scholarly research on global media, communication, and public life. Our work brings together “area studies” knowledge with theory and methodology in the humanities and social sciences to understand how local, lived experiences of people and communities are profoundly shaped by global media alongside cultural and political-economic forces.

View Profile