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Design of a New-Age Conglomerate: Examining Amazon INC’s Infrastructure and the Evolution of the Contemporary Digital Conglomerate

Curtis, Ambrose (2021) Design of a New-Age Conglomerate: Examining Amazon INC’s Infrastructure and the Evolution of the Contemporary Digital Conglomerate. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Amazon is a corporation that is tremendous in its infrastructural breadth and ambition. The company is a part of class of new-age conglomerates that includes contemporaries Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (known as FAANG). In order to maintain its exponential growth, the new-age conglomerate must rely on an exponentially expanding labor force. This work force includes all types of laborers, running the gamut from more traditionally employed laborers to independent contractors. This work examines the ways in which Amazon as a modern conglomerate proliferates new labor precedents for those who may lend their labor to the company in the hopes that these jobs will provide them economic prosperity, as Amazon promises via much of its career opportunities communications.

This project argues that despite the promises that Amazon makes to its army of laborers and potential laborers, the realities of the working conditions, expectations, and compensation are starkly different. Moreover, this project examines the ways in which these laborers cope with the precarious realities of their labor. Specifically, this project argues that these laborers often engage in acts of “precarious pre-labor” or ancillary labor necessary to mitigate the uncertainty brought about by their Amazon labor. I focus mainly on one type of precarious pre-labor that is prevalent amongst these workers, which is engagement with each other through online communities in order to provide support and tips for survival. Through digital ethnographic research on the platform, I explore both older threads and more contemporary conversations that demonstrate the survival techniques that these laborers engage in as they labor to help Amazon reach its expansion goals.

My ultimate ambition is to also add a more humanistic viewpoint to the ongoing discussions about Amazon, its expansion, and the labor that powers it all. By examining the ways in which a new-age conglomerate situates itself as a producer of labor and also within the contemporary economic landscape this work seeks to answer questions about how these modern conglomerates are shifting labor paradigms and the impact that is having on those who are most victimized by these shifts in labor norms.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Curtis, AmbroseANC178@pitt.eduANC1780000-0003-0891-8871
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMalin,
Committee MemberBruce,
Committee MemberMitchell,
Committee MemberDuck,
Date: 15 March 2021
Date Type: Submission
Defense Date: 16 November 2020
Approval Date: 3 May 2021
Submission Date: 24 March 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 197
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: No
Uncontrolled Keywords: Amazon, Sharing Economy, Digital Conglomerate, Precarity, Labor
Date Deposited: 03 May 2021 14:53
Last Modified: 03 May 2021 14:53


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