Gig Work on Digital Platforms: Online Support Tools and Forums for AMT Crowdworkers

In a project for USAID, we undertook a study of digital labour platforms in emerging economies.

This study is part of a series of case studies we conducted for USAID. We examined 4 digital platforms targeting workers in emerging economies and their impact on workers’ agency, access to employment opportunities, and employment terms and conditions.

AMAZON MECHANICAL TURK

Microwork platform Amazon Mechanical Turk has caught the attention of scholars and much has been written about the poor and exploitative conditions and global value chain of labour. Many tools and forums to support Turkers have emerged in recent years, some of them worker supported and maintained and other run and managed by researchers and other interested parties.

We examined the case of worker support groups and forums for Amazon Mechanical Turkers in the global south. We initially looked at the case of Turkopticon and Turker Nation, two of the more popular forums and longest-running forums for Turkers based in the global north. We were primarily interested in questions around the role of these tools in building worker solidarity and collectivisation efforts, working conditions, and strategies to effectively access work opportunities. However, we found that for Turkers in India, localised groups on Facebook and WhatsApp were more applicable and resourceful.

We interviewed Amazon Mechanical Turkers located in India, managers of Turker Nation and Turkopticon, group admins of various Turker support social media groups, and researchers. Our findings diverted slightly from narratives from the global north and found that local labour market realities and familial and community relations play a significant role in the experience of Turkers in India.



Authors

Zothan Mawii

Zothan Mawii is Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work focuses on the impact of digital technologies on labour markets in the global south and the intersection between gender and emerging technologies. She has been studying the impact of digital labour platforms in emerging economies, conducting extensive field work in India, South Africa, and Myanmar. Key to her research are questions around changing employment relations and the nature of work, worker well-being, and worker rights in technology mediated work. Her research interests include digital labour, online social movements, the care economy, feminist perspectives on technology, and internet rights. She has previously worked on issues around internet shutdowns and online violence against women. She holds a MA in Digital Culture and Society from King's College London and a BA (Hons) in English from St. Stephen's College, DU.

Urvashi Aneja

Urvashi Aneja is Founding Director of Tandem Research. She works on the governance and sociology of emerging technology; southern partnerships for humanitarian and development assistance; and the power and politics of global civil society. Urvashi is also Associate Fellow at Chatham House and a columnist for the Indian Express. She has a PhD from the Department of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford. Previously, she was Associate Professor of International Relations at the OP Jindal Global University and Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.