UCL Department of Geography


UCL Geography student wins DevGRG Dissertation Prize

24 January 2023

Samuel Street, BA Geography (International Programme), was awarded the Development Geographies Research Group (DevGRG) annual undergraduate dissertation prize for his work on the psychology and political economy of remote gig work amongst Nigerian online freelancers.

Samuel Street

Sam's dissertation looked at how young Nigerians are earning a living online through remote gig work platforms. He explores the triumphs and pitfalls of relying on unregulated online global marketplaces to find income.

Sam first developed an interest in gig work in a Global South context through his second-year economic geographies module and narrowed this broad topic down to remote gig work in Nigeria for his dissertation.

Discussing how he tried to portray the thoughts and feelings of his interview subjects in his writing, Samuel discovered a contrast with the way existing scholarship tends to focus on the structural features of gig work over the subjective experiences of those doing it.

"For many of my respondents, remote gig work, although extremely difficult, was a key part of their cultural identity. I felt these kinds of perspectives were missing and were worth writing about," he told us. With the help of his supervisor, Dr Tatiana Thieme's, work on ‘The Hustle’, Sam demonstrated how, for many of his respondents, remote gig work was narrated as a form of ‘digital hustle’; a strategy adopted by young Nigerians to sidestep the relative dearth of employment opportunities available to them, and to leave behind increasingly outmoded notions of a ‘good job’ imposed on them by their parents’ generation.

Sam found that remote gig work could be lucrative but it also rendered workers vulnerable to exploitation and fraud. He argued that Nigerian online freelancers wield a kind of spatial power. "They produce their own 'conjunctional geographies’" he explained. "This allows them to sidestep some of the economic and cultural difficulties they face growing up in Nigeria while rooting their 'globalised' work in local spaces of support, solidarity and enterprise that help them overcome the inherent vicissitudes of remote gig work."

Samuel is currently working towards publishing this dissertation with the help of his supervisors Dr Tatiana Thieme and Professor Ben Page.

You can find out more about Development Geographies Research Group on their website.

Visit the BA Geography (International Programme) course page to find out more about what Samuel has been studying.