Abstract

The main goal of this paper is to show that crowdworkers collaborate to fulfill technical and social needs left by the platform they work on. That is, crowdworkers are not the independent, autonomous workers they are often assumed to be, but instead work within a social network of other crowdworkers. Crowdworkers collaborate with members of their networks to 1) manage the administrative overhead associated with crowdwork, 2) find lucrative tasks and reputable employers and 3) recreate the social connections and support often associated with brick and mortar-work environments. Our evidence combines ethnography, interviews, survey data and larger scale data analysis from four crowdsourcing platforms, emphasizing the qualitative data from the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform and Microsoft’s proprietary crowdsourcing platform, the Universal Human Relevance System (UHRS). This paper draws from an ongoing, longitudinal study of crowdwork that uses a mixed methods approach to understand the cultural meaning, political implications, and ethical demands of crowdsourcing.