Spring 2021 - LBST 431 D100

Selected Topics in Labour Studies (4)

Labour & Communication

Class Number: 3154

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 11 – Apr 16, 2021: Fri, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Will vary according to topic. LBST 101 is strongly recommended for all upper division LBST courses.



Selected topics in areas not currently offered within the undergraduate course offerings. Students may take more than one offering of LBST Special/Selected Topics courses for credit as long as the topic for each offering is different.


This course explores the relationship between labour, communication, and the media, including work in the media and communication industries, media depictions of workers and workplaces, and how workers and their organizations are using media and communication technologies. Using political economy, labour studies, and cultural studies perspectives, we investigate the rise of “platform economy” discourse and the associated promises of entrepreneurial autonomy, consumer convenience, and labour flexibility. Work in “creative” sectors such as fashion, high tech, videogames, and the cultural industries is highly sought after, but the realities of such employment are often different than how they are portrayed—getting a foot in the door can require working for free, labour flexibility increasingly means insecure employment, and “cool jobs” can bring chronic overwork. At the precarious margins of the labour market, the rise of platforms has brought algorithmic management, the offloading of risk on to workers, and low pay. Addressing these problems is a major challenge facing workers, their organizations, and policymakers, and the development of collective solutions will be a central focus of this course. Topics examined during the course of the semester include: precarious employment and the gig economy; platform companies and platform labour; online work, entrepreneurialism and new worker identities; the digital labour process; labour resistance and collective organization; the global division of digital work; platform cooperativism.

The seminar format is participatory and collaborative. Each week the instructor will offer an introduction to the topic, after which the group will discuss themes selected from the weekly readings. Regular, respectful, and informed participation is an essential component of the seminar and forms a significant portion of the final grade.


  • Seminar participation 35%
  • Gig Game reflection assignments 30%
  • Collaborative research project 35%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy: The Labour Studies Program follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐S10.04). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.
Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.


This course will be taught synchronously during scheduled seminar times.

***Please note, this is a small course with a waiting list. Attendance at the first seminar is mandatory. Failure to attend without justification the first week will mean losing 10% of your final mark.

The seminar also includes:

  • A collective research project on platform work in Vancouver guided by the instructor. This research will result in a report published with the British Columbia Federation of Labour;
  • Regular guest talks from experts in the field;
  • A playful investigation of platform work via Logout!: The Gig Game, an online simulation turn-based role-playing game where each student impersonates a worker in the gig economy.



All readings will be available through Canvas, the SFU Library, or otherwise online as noted.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).