[iDC] bus thoughts

Frank Kashner fkashner at gmail.com
Thu Nov 13 17:17:58 UTC 2014

Thoughts on the bus to the way to DL14.

I am excited to have “met” Lilly, and am looking forward to meeting more
Turkopticon and Dynamo people.  Your topics of study and action are ones
that I have been curious about for much of my life. I know that I have only
had the barest introduction to Turkopticon and Dynamo, so please excuse me
if I get things wrong.

Prior to this conference, I was not even aware of the Amazon utility,
though I had attempted, unsuccessfully, to use ODesk. I recently signed up
to AMT but have not found the time to do a HIT. I was refused one when my
camera was deemed insufficient. I really look forward to attending your
workshops and learning more from you all.

I would not have imagined that you could put a rating system right into the
heart of Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) and wonder what could be done with
other programs, like Glassdoor for example.  Unfortunately, I cannot attend
the Sunday session as I will be back on the bus.

It occurs to me that we use the term “hacking” in at least two different
ways.  One way is to hack to destroy (Anonymous has done some of this), to
be a parasite (like steal credit card information), or to expose /
whistle-blow (my heroes).  Another use of “hack” is, like Turkopticon, to
be more symbiotic.  The host may not have invited the interloper / guest,
but, once the guest has arrived, the host may see some value to the
presence of the guest.

Companies like Glassdoor even have an internalized rating system to give
themselves legitimacy and to attract users to whom they can then sell jobs
and other stuff.

I imagine that Amazon Mechanical Turk is probably capable of fending off
Turkopticon if it really wanted to do so.  I know that AMT broke
Turkopticon once, possibly as a side effect. But AMT probably sees value in
Turkopticon.  If Requesters do not pay for services they receive, and are
abusive in other ways to Turkers, there might eventually be a call for
government action (is there already one?).  As supra-national as Amazon
seeks to be, it is still susceptible to actions by various governments.

What Turkopticon is accomplishing is fundamentally important.  But we can
imagine that there are limits to what Amazon will tolerate.  If the host
feels abused it might become interested in expelling the guest.  So there
may be limits to symbiotic hacking, past which, we get a hostile and
possibly vindictive host.

This is not a reason to stop hacking.  Indeed, we can view the host – guest
relationship as a form of class relationship and struggle. We “guests” seek
to get our needs met, and finding the limits of symbiosis is worth doing.
We just have to remain aware of what might be seen by hosts as the balance
between symbiosis and hostile invasion, and of the possible cost to
ourselves of particular hacks.

I don’t know if these thoughts are right or  helpful.  If not, please
excuse them.  I am really expressing my excitement about the conference and
disappointment that I will miss the Sunday discussion.

- Frank
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