‘The Cultural Work of Microwork’ up on New Media & Society Online First!

Find the OnlineFirst piece at New Media & Society or the preprint here if you don’t have access to NMS

Abstract:
Crowdsourcing systems do more than get information work done. This paper argues that microwork systems produce the difference between “innovative” laborers and “menial” laborers, ameliorating resulting tensions in new media production cultures in turn. This paper focuses on Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) as an emblematic case of microwork crowdsourcing. Ethical research on crowdsourcing has focused on questions of worker fairness and microlabor alienation. This paper focuses on the cultural work of AMT’s mediations: divisions of labor and software interfaces. This paper draws from infrastructure studies and feminist science and technology studies to examine Amazon Mechanical Turk labor practice, its methods of worker control, and the kinds of users it produces.

Special Mention for 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize in Critical Theory and Creative Research

As S.L. Irani-Silberman, Six and I wrote an essay “Interrupting Invisibilities and Bridging Worlds.” Disobedience was the theme of the essay competition theme. Our essay examines what Turkopticon accomplishes and how it falls short as an act of disobedience in cultures of technology. Our essay is published on Untitled, PNCA’s web journal. Find it here.

Communications of the ACM story features Turkopticon

Turkopticon was the focus of a story “Software Aims to Ensure Fairness in Crowdsourcing” in the August 2013 issue of the Communications of the ACM, the widely-read magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery. For me, coverage in the premier computing association magazine gives me a sense of triumph, as if we scaled the walls of the Computer Science (CS) profession somehow. Questions of politics and ethics are often marginal within CS departments; our hope was that Turkopticon might draw attention to the labor and power issues in computation not only among communication scholars, but also among the computer scientists building these labor systems.