Day 3 Predictions

From Cyberlaw: Difficult Issues Winter 2010
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Daniel: My guess is that three issues will be focused:

1- labor rights – workers in UHC are not attached to a safe work environment, do not receive any fringe benefits, health care, etc., and as of yet there are no unions for Turks and the like. It is quite easy to see homeworkers as nonworkers, and to build digital sweatshops.

2- workers’ new expectation of complete anonymity, that go way beyond privacy demands in regular work environments. Hopefully ethical issues concerning this faceless workforce will be discussed, as well as its potential identity and community feelings (taking into account that, unlike bearers of formal jobs, UHC workers have shifting numbers, not social security ones). Still on this topic, I expect debates about people willing to perform otherwise shameful tasks, and about the opportunities for children, sick or unfit workers in general to work / be worked.

3- the use of UHC for complex, creative tasks, analyzed in conjunction with a look at the economics of commoditized labor pools. Resulting discussions could examine quality control and its costs, and proper design, necessary to unleash creativity and demand more than repetitive, boring tasks from fellow anonymous humans. On that note, it is nice to see that, as scientific experiments with Mechanical Turks become more popular, academic attention is drawn towards the problematic incentives in the platform’s most common setting (low payment + repetitive tasks), which encourages Turks to finish HITs as fast as they can, at the expense of proper comprehension of the tasks.

My wish list for the session: discussions of solutions / tools such as Turkopticon, a Firefox application designed to identify and expose “shady employers”.