The Unknown, Poorly Paid Labor Force Powering Academic Research

Source: Louise Matsakis, Motherboard, February 4, 2016

Many of Amazon’s least-paid workers aren’t in its warehouses, but online. They’re the workers of Mechanical Turk, (MTurk) Amazon’s marketplace where companies can request for individuals, referred to as Turkers, to complete micro-sized tasks, called Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs), in exchange for pennies a pop. The tasks vary widely, and can include transcription, writing, editing, and content moderation, among many other things.

But Turkers aren’t just helping to translate sentences or tag pictures on Instagram, they’re contributing to academia. As a post published Wednesday by Vanessa Williamson on The Brookings Institute’s TechTank blog points out, professors and researchers are increasingly turning to the platform to mine data for their studies. ….

…. The problem is, it’s not clear whether the data gathered via Turkers is valid in some circumstances, and there are questions as to whether it’s sourced ethically, since at least some people who work on MTurk are paid far below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour….