Noopur Raval wearing red hat

Instant-Instant Noodles

How algorithmic platforms transform food, taste and reproduction in cities.
September 7, 2022 - 12:00pm1:30pm

330 Fisher-Bennett Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104

After many “disruptive” waves of digital innovation, algorithmic platforms like Uber and DoorDash are vying to reduce the time it takes to deliver groceries, essential goods and cooked food to your doorsteps. This moment marks a departure from “old” platform capitalism as it is primarily marked by the platforms’ own crises of innovation (what next?). The success of faster end-to-end deliveries has also required a massive re-infrastructuring of platforms as well as of the urban logistical infrastructures that support storage, distribution, communication and delivery. Finally, platforms have engaged in substantial discursive work to legitimize  even faster deliveries as a social need - an actual thing that people may want. This talk draws on long-term ethnographic work on algorithmic platforms to ponder how platform capitalism is re-infrastructuring urban spaces in its search for new frontiers of expansion and simultaneously, how these ‘backend’ transformations might be changing the social meanings around food consumption and taste as well as the relationships of reproductive labor involved in feeding oneself and the family.

Noopur Raval is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Computational Media Department at UC Santa Cruz and an incoming assistant professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA (2023). She is an interdisciplinary scholar with training in cinema and media studies, critical information studies as well as postcolonial history. Raval obtained her PhD in Informatics at UC Irvine where she began studying algorithmic gig work platforms with a focus on their social and economic outcomes in urban India. Currently, Raval is primarily studying the professional practices and politics of tech workers in Silicon Valley.