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Worn Out: Retail Workers vs. Digital Surveillance

Sat, April 29, 2023 @ 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Free – $12

A video of this April 29, 2023, event is available on the MEP’s YouTube channel.

With Author Madison Van Oort

Worn Out book coverBeneath the success of fast fashion, a grimmer story is told by Madison Van Oort in Worn Out: How Retailers Surveil and Exploit Workers in the Digital Age and How Workers Are Fighting Back. Going undercover in two of the world’s largest fast fashion stores in New York City, she observed firsthand how data and surveillance shape the lives of the people who do the actual producing and selling. Van Oort’s interviews with dozens of front line workers and labor activists show how workers are fighting back, and her research exposes the exploitative reality of retail labor as digital tools lubricate the shift toward just-in-time retail by collecting real-time data on not only customer behavior but also worker performance. Automated scheduling platforms, biometric time clocks, and cashier metrics increase these workers’ already heightened insecurity. One of the first ethnographies of this “thriving” industry, Worn Out pulls open the curtain between production and consumption and reveals the real cost of fast fashion.

Madison Van Oort is a researcher based in Minneapolis. She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2018, and her academic writing has appeared in the journals Critical Sociology, Ethnography, and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society as well as the anthology Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life. Worn Out is her first book.

Worn Out is available from the publisher, MIT Press.