March 04, 2017

Crowdwork From here "This online piecework, or “crowdwork,” represents a radical shift in how we define employment itself. The individuals performing this work are of course not traditional employees, but neither are they freelancers. They are, instead, “users” or “customers” of Web-based platforms that deliver pre-priced tasks like so many DIY kits ready for assembly. Transactions are bound not by employee-employer relationships but by “user agreements” and Terms of Service that resemble software licenses more than any employment contract. Researchers at Oxford University's Martin Programme on Technology and Employment estimate that nearly 30% of jobs in the U.S. could be organized like this within 20 years. Forget the rise of robots and the distant threat of automation. The immediate issue is the Uber-izing of human labor, fragmenting of jobs into outsourced tasks and dismantling of wages into micropayments. In the U.S. and overseas, crowdwork payments can mean the difference between scraping by and saving for a home or working toward a degree. But as Riyaz Khan, a 32-year-old from a small town in the coastal state of Andhra Pradesh in India, discovered, doing work on spec posted by someone you'll never meet and who has no legal obligations to you has serious disadvantages. My team at Microsoft Research spent two years studying the lives of hundreds of American and Indian crowdworkers like Khan to learn how they manage this nascent form of employment and the capriciousness that comes with it. Khan, when we met him, had spent three years finding work...
Response to Luke Mergner Public Seminar deleted my response to Luke Mergner's review of Crowds and Party. The review is critical -- so critical that the author doesn't even get the title right. Nor does he get the title right of one of my other books that he mentions. Here is my response (fortunately, a Facebook friend was able to recover it): Hi Luke, thanks for the thoughtful review. My 2009 book is called Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies. As you know, definitions are not always useful since most of our concepts have histories. The concept of the crowd that I use comes primarily from LeBon (a temporary collective being) and is expanded via Canetti (especially with respect to the egalitarian discharge). Crowds don't have to be spontaneous; they can be organized and produced. I talk about mobs on pp. 7-8, and refer briefly to some of that literature. As I note, the 19th century opens up the discussion of whether a crowd is a mob or the people. This is a political question, a matter of struggle and debate. This struggle is always necessarily situated -- what is opened up, what is possible? Some commentators always mistrust the people, always render the crowd as a mob. Others find possibility. I don't deconstruct the idea of individual interests because I am more interested in rejecting the individual form altogether. You write: "Dean wants to argue that intelligible interests can be attributed to collectives" -- that description doesn't ring true to me since I don't...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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