Trebor Scholz, Associate Professor Culture & Media at The New School, New York
Over the past decade, advancements in software development, digitization, faster and cheaper bandwidth, processing power, and storage, and the introduction of a wide range of inexpensive, wireless-enabled computing devices, set the global stage for emerging forms of labor that help corporations to drive down labour costs and ward off the falling rate of profits.
While it does not look or smell like labour, digital work is part of the daily lives of millions of invisible workers in the UK, the United States, India, and Russia.
In the legal gray zone of the Internet, with its stark asymmetry of enforceable rights, platforms like 99Designs, CrowdFlower, or Amazon Mechanical Turk have become templates for Post-Fordist labor that challenge the achievements of decades-long labor struggles including minimum wage, sick leave, and the 8-hour workday. How relevant are unions to the millions of crowdsourced workers? How can policy makers respond to this situation? Which concrete projects offer new ways of thinking about “digital solidarity” for the globally distributed workforce?