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Brave New Digital Work? New Forms of Performance Control in Crowdwork

Work and Labor in the Digital Age

ISBN: 978-1-78973-586-4, eISBN: 978-1-78973-585-7

ISSN: 0277-2833

Publication date: 4 July 2019

Abstract

The term “crowdwork” describes a new form of digital work that is organized and regulated by internet-based platforms. This chapter examines how crowdwork platforms ensure their virtual workforce’s commitment and control its performance despite its high mobility, anonymity, and dispersion. The findings are based on a case study analysis of 15 microtask and macrotask platforms, encompassing 32 interviews with representatives of crowdwork platforms, and crowdworkers, as well as an analysis of the platforms’ homepages and community spaces. The chapter shows that performance control on crowd platforms relies on a combination of direct control, reputation systems, and community building, which have until now been studied in isolation or entirely ignored. Moreover, the findings suggest that while all three elements can be found on both microtask and macrotask platforms, their functionality and purpose differ. Overall, the findings highlight that platforms are no neutral intermediaries but organizations that adopt an active role in structuring the digital labor process and in shaping working conditions. Their managerial structures are coded and objectified into seemingly neutral technological infrastructures, whereby the underlying power relations between capital and labor become obscured.

Keywords

Citation

Gerber, C. and Krzywdzinski, M. (2019), "Brave New Digital Work? New Forms of Performance Control in Crowdwork", Vallas, S.P. and Kovalainen, A. (Ed.) Work and Labor in the Digital Age (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 33), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 121-143. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0277-283320190000033008

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019 Emerald Publishing Limited