Difference and Dependence among Digital Workers: The Case of Amazon Mechanical Turk
Digitally mediated labor can take many forms: valorized and visible, hidden and forgotten, or even disavowed. This article examines one particular digital work system: Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). AMT is a system that organizes tens of thousands of workers to do data-processing work; workers might contract with hundreds of employers in a year without ever meeting them. Employers, likewise, can access these workers through computer interfaces without ever interacting with them. I examine the AMT-mediated computational labor relations between technologist employers and the data-processing workers who work for them. In systems such as AMT, some people are employers, entrepreneurs, and programmers, and others simulate computation for them. The subjectivities of valorized workers are dependent on employing and distancing the labor of AMT workers. I take up these relations of dependency and disavowal as symptomatic of emerging forms and stakes of digital work.