[iDC] Thinking about digital piecework and research/ers

Sarah T. Roberts sarah.roberts at uwo.ca
Mon Oct 6 18:53:03 UTC 2014

Greetings, all -

I recently asked a question on the #dl14 Facebook page and thought I’d send it out to all on the list. As a researcher actively engaged in trying to bring to light the economic and labor realities of people working in digital piecework contexts, I have been disturbed that people, often my own peers (e.g., parties from my graduate school department), turn to services like Mechanical Turk and others to provide large-scale processing of tasks related to research projects, with seemingly little or no interrogation or critique of the economy upon which they are relying to conduct their research. While I’m sure the way these projects get past ethics boards is due to the compensation that the projects provide, there is such minimal accountability and ability for either researcher or subject to follow up/follow through once the research task is completed that it seems a dangerous practice in which to engage. This is even before we enter into a critique of these platforms, in general.

When I brought this up on Fb, I asked if anyone coming to #dl14 might be working on this topic. One person responded that she’s not working directly on it, but is interested in it and wants to talk more about it. It would be great to get a discussion going on the list that could then spill over into our time together in NYC.  

Anyone interested?



S a r a h  T.  R o b e r t s,  P h. D.

Assistant Professor
Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) 
Western University

Blogging periodically at

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