Nethnography

Research Planning

The following mindmap represents all the key words that we used in order to discover online communities relevant to our research.

mindmap

Search Queries

Instagram

In order to maximize our research findings, we used Instagram as one of the research platforms on which we used only hashtags (#) to find the right posts regarding the communities we were looking for.

Keywords Query 1 Query 2
The war between Uber and Taxis #UberWars
Uber Community #UberDriver #UberStrike
Shared Economy #RideShare
Taxi Community #YourTaxis #TaxiStrike

Twitter

For our second platform, we chose Twitter, and once again we only used hashtags (#) in our search for the right communities.

Keywords Query 1 Query 2 Query 3
The war between Uber and Taxis #UberWar(s) #Uber + #Taxi
Uber Community #UberDriver #UberStrike #UberProtest
Shared Economy #SharingEconomy + #Uber
Taxi Community #YourTaxis #TaxiStrike

Online communities justification

Instagram

We chose to use Instagram as one of the platforms for researching online communities related to our trend because it is such a big social media platform that we thought the results generated through our search queries will be relevant no matter what. And we were not wrong. People keep posting pictures every day, and that includes a large number of the clients who use Uber. We were able to find posts relevant to our research topic every time we looked for more results. What is more, the interactivity between some users also gave us good insight into what they think about Uber’s services and how they feel about the company as a whole. Additionally, the platform has over 500 million monthly active users all over the world, and 300 million daily active users (Digital Statistics Database, 2016). Because of this reason, we can claim that there is a very large number of different participants and thus, the platform is highly heterogeneous and data-rich, helping us not become biased in our data interpretation from too many posts sharing the same opinion.

Twitter

We reached for Twitter as our second platform of choice since it is one of the most well-known means of microblogging. In our research, this is very useful because we can see what people are talking about, how they feel about different situations and what they think of Uber as a company, without being influenced by anyone. The community is very relevant because there are a lot of people talking only about Uber on Twitter, giving us the exact information we need. In addition, since the platform has over 100 million active daily users (Digital Statistics Database, 2016), we can safely say that the community is very active and has regular and recent communications, and also interact with each other a lot.  Moreover, due to the large number of users, the platform has a large number of different participants and thus is also rich in data and information we can use for our research.

Entrée

Regarding our roles as ethnographers for this research topic, we decided it would be best if we were passive, covert ethnographers. This role makes more sense for our trend research because the information we needed to gather had to be experiences, thoughts or at least some sort of personal knowledge that market the Uber consumers (passengers as well as drivers), in one way or another. On Instagram, as well as on Twitter, people share their thoughts and opinions on things very often, but when they decided to create an account on these platforms and also personally post something, they agreed to the terms and conditions of both the social media platforms, by which they know that their comments will be public and can be seen by anyone. For this reason, we feel that there is no need to inform anyone or ask for their permission in order to use their posts in our research. Furthermore, we also avoid introducing ourselves in these communities because it can change the people’s behaviors and thus we might get biased or influenced opinions from individuals, rather than honest and true ones (White, 2009).

Data Collection

The only way for us to get true insight into what the Uber-Taxi war actually is, was to simply check the results of the hashtags created and see what people posted about it. Our first hashtag choice was the pretty straightforward “#UberWars”, used on both Twitter and Instagram. What we found on Instagram was just a lot of examples of how taxis seem to hate on Uber drivers, and how customers actually prefer riding Uber compared to traditional taxis.

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In one of the images we can see that a Yellow Cab has written on the back of the car that “Uber is illegal”, and there have been plenty of accusations regarding the company evading taxes and making lives harder for hard working traditional taxi drivers, as it was discussed in our literature review as well. However, Uber is a business in itself, and somehow, disregarding the fact that they entered a highly competitive market with an already established target market, they still managed to steal that target and make it their own, just by offering a better, simple, easy to use technological alternative to people, a smartphone app that only requires a few taps of a button and the client is satisfied. A comment on the same picture also shows that people tend to root for Uber in this war, because a lot of them are rather disappointed with the traditional cabs’ service: “Yellow cab SUCKS, screw them” (romymarie).

When we turned to Twitter to see how people felt about the situation, we got quite a few more hits on the issue. What we saw was that a lot more violence was being posted in those tweets. People with either genuine concern or expressing their disappointment post updates on how the circumstances are evolving. @1anhaga posted “Lookin’ like #UberWars ain’t just a hashtag :(“, accompanied by a screenshot of two other tweets concerning Uber cars set on fire by taxi drivers in Kenya and Northern Ireland, the same as @mixmasterlenny was saying “Was wondering why there was a burning car on the road… this is serious now #UberWars”, conveying that the severity of this conflict exceeded their – and probably many others’ – expectations. Another person (@mountainous) was mentioning that “At the very basic level, Uber is just an app. Even if you kick out the corporation, the idea is there and will be copied by others. #UberWars” and on the same note as @Ronald_Owili, who was saying that “These taximen should know if they don’t change, change will change them. They should make [their] own app. Power [is] still with the consumer #UberWars”. These last two comments suggest that technological advancement is unavoidable and if the traditional transportation industry wants to remain relevant for longer, they should not only upgrade their ways of doing business, but also change their way of thinking and behaviours towards technological advancements, because the world is not going backwards, only
forwards.

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Next we looked at the hashtags related to strikes: #UberStrike and #TaxiStrike.

Starting with #TaxiStrike, we observed that on both Instagram and Twitter there were similar posts. First of all, there were a lot of people who were just updating what was going on at the time of the strike, sharing terrible images of cars on fire and other types of damage to Uber cars, damage cause by taxi drivers. Some places were more violent than the others, but all in all, one person (@MouthShut) managed to summarize all the feelings about the strikes in one scene from Game of Thrones, one that all of us can understand. Uber drivers feel indeed trapped in this war, first of all because it is not primarily their fault, yet they are the ones suffering from all the attacks, not the Uber HQ.

But what seems to be the biggest dilemma for the clients is the fact that not only do taxis protest Uber transportation, but they also do not offer any other back up plan for the commuters. If their plan was to “steal back” the passengers from Uber, they should offer at least one means of transportation for the people. However, as we can see from @P00jA1994 they do not do that: “A day after #TaxiStrike, 7-8 taxis refused to take us to the college & they want Ola/Uber services to stop :/”. This only goes to show that taxi drivers only think of the end result, think of what they want and are able to do anything to get it. What is their mistake in this scenario is that they absolutely need to take into accound the fact that somewhere along the way something might go wrong with they plan to strike, and even after all their efforts, Uber will still win, just because they will disregard their clients too much, whereas Uber will not.

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Moving on to #UberStrike, there seem to be two sides to this tag: one coming from the taxis protesting Uber and one coming from Uber drivers protesting their salary pay and work conditions. The same as in the #TaxiStrike, taxi drivers all over the world are protesting the Uber service because they steal clients from them.

But what is more relevant to this hashtag are the reasons why Uber drivers seem to be so unhappy about. The user @mathdoctore on Instagram posted a protest poster which showed that UberX drivers earn only $1.60 per mile, that they want to have a tip option implemented in the app, as tipping is not mandatory with Uber, they want a proper insurance and also they feel like there should be a cap on the number of drivers being allowed to drive for the company. Another user, @maga_loof, posted a picture of someone holding up a sign, which said “When you first needed me you had a nice approach, now you are treating me like a cockroach”. All of these posts suggest that Uber is indeed mistreating its employees, and badly. Therefore, a lot of people feel that the drivers are entitled to a strike. A lot of regular customers, even though they depend on the service of Uber, seem to be taking the side of the drivers on this. @jujuraxy said “Hey @Uber_RSA you’ve got great committed drivers. Don’t mess with their wages: I’ll pay. I support #uberstrike”, and @laurenbeukes also mentioned that “I support the drivers’ #uberstrike. Will support #uberforless when @Uber_RSA reduces its OWN cut #petrolprice #datacosts”. This all means that Uber is just as hungry for money as any other big company out there. They seemed to be looking out for its people more than anything, but facts do not lie and protests are not made because the drivers have nothing better to do.

But even with all the protests and the community sticking together, some Uber drivers did not care the least bit about them and continued driving, thus taking advantage of the surge prices. @waliekpays posted on Instagram “Lol. Uber strike my *** I’m getting this money”, only to have another user reply to his post with “What money?”, thus reinforcing the real need for a true protest from the drivers.

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On another similar tone, the posts in the hashtag #UberProtest focus a bit more on the differences between traditional taxis and Uber. Once again, Uber had most of its customers’ support, because of reasons mentioned by @yazidatan “#uberprotest is a bit like the postal service campaining against email. Futile”. However, other users such as @Shr33k1 say that “My dad used to be a taxi driver for 7 years. Hard enough trying to make a living & pay the bills. #UberProtest #UberTaxiWars #BanUber”. Now we can see that there will always be two sides to every conflict, including this one, and there is no good or bad way to deal with it. On one hand, technological advancement is unavoidable and cannot and should not be stopped, as it makes our everyday life easier. But on the other hand, what will happen to those who not only may not be willing to adapt, but also to the ones who cannot adapt whatsoever? Should they find another field of work or should they try even harder to get with the times? As interesting as these questions may be to answer, it is not up to us to tell people what to do, only they can make that choice.

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Data Analysis

While sorting through all the comments we gathered from both Instagram and Twitter, we discovered a few main topics that seemed to reoccur.

1.      Pro Uber / Contra Taxi

We saw that there was a significant amount of Uber passengers who are supporting the service completely. To them, it is what technological evolution is supposed to be doing, which is make our lives easier, less complicated and more enjoyable to live. Since the Uber app is doing all of the previously mentioned things, people fell in love with it at first sight, proof being the company’s resounding success in just a few years.

Another reason why clients love Uber so much is because the service is, in most cases, very reliable, compared to the ones of taxis, and also the drivers treat them nicer and are generally more joyful.

The reason why drivers like to work for Uber however, is because they get a nice paycheck at the end of the month for working by their own hours, getting to drive in their own car and doing only what they want to do. No-one is making them have a minimum amount of rides per day and that takes a lot of stress off their shoulders. In addition, occasionally prices will rise when the demand for Uber rides is higher than the cars available, which gives the drivers an extra amount of money for less of the distance.

2.      Contra Uber / Pro Taxi

On the other hand, surge prices represent a downside for the passengers. Who would want to pay more for the same trip you maybe took more than once, just because you happened to need a ride at a peak time? Nobody. And that is what a lot of people on both Twitter and Instagram have said about the surge prices issue.

But even with the surge prices and extra money for the drivers, it is still nowhere near enough for them to make a decent living out of driving for Uber. At the initial time, when you see a lot of money all of a sudden, it may seem like it is the greatest job existing. However, after cutting out all the extra expenses, such as gas, insurance and so on, an Uber driver makes not more than the minimum wage in a lot of different countries.

Also, considering that the concept of Uber is relatively new on the market, yet it still was such a big success, means that traditional transportation methods such as regular taxis will be losing more and more clients to Uber.

3.      Violence towards Uber drivers

One of the biggest issues with the whole war between Uber and taxis is the fact that taxi drivers seem to take protests and strikes to a new level. There have been countless incidents in which people were left injured because of violent attacks coming from taxi drivers towards Uber drivers. And even if this is the biggest problem, standstill protests involving fire, though not hurting anyone, are still highly dangerous.

Additionally, these strikes, more often than not, affect clients rather than the company they are protesting against. If taxis stop working, that gives people no means of transportation, which they might have needed. That only results in frustrations from being late to work, school etc, and it will not even solve the issue. Because some people, if they see that the taxis are protesting against Uber, it will make them want to use their service even more, first of all because they have no other choice since taxis will not offer rides, and second of all because Uber is generally a more trustworthy and safer service and is worth using.

Category choice explanation

The categories described above are a result of our reading and highlighting of all the important Instagram and Twitter posts we selected. We went through all of them, saw how many themes reoccurred, counted them and then put them all together as a category.24

For our frequency table and chart, we have analyzed 154 posts together on Instagram and Twitter, divided them in 4 categories, as it can be seen above, and it can be observed that even though there is a large number of negative thoughts against Uber, the positive ones prevail by almost 10%.

Topics Frequency % Total
Pro Uber 76 43.68%
Neutral Opinion 25 14.37%
Against Uber 60 34.48%
Violence towards Uber Drivers 13 7.47%

 

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