|Valerio De Stefano|
Crowdwork is the casual work of the 21st century. Like other forms of casual work, crowd work is characterized by lack of job security and few, if any, labour protections. But with day labourers, dockworkers, and agricultural hands – probably the types of casual work that most readily come to mind – work is at least for the day. In the on-demand economy, it is for the task at hand. This can be as short as a few kilometers’ drive or ten minutes spent tagging photos on the internet. Lucas Biewald, the CEO of the micro-task platform Crowdflower, once quipped that ‘before the Internet it would be really difficult to find someone, sit them down for ten minutes and get them to work for you, and then fire them after those ten minutes’. Now instead, ‘you can actually find them, pay them the tiny amount of money, and then get rid of them when you don’t need them anymore’ (quoted in Marvit, 2014).
The ‘Turker’, the Uber driver, or the graphic artist working on an online design platform must continuously search for work, monitoring their computer screens or phones for work opportunities. Indeed, in a recent ILO survey on employment and working conditions in two leading micro-task crowdwork platforms, it was found that workers averaged 18 minutes looking for work for every hour working (Berg, 2016). As an Amazon Mechanical Turk worker from the United States put it,
The toughest part of turking for a living is actually finding the jobs. For every hour I spend working I most likely spend 2 hours monitoring the various scripts I have running to see what jobs show up (Quoted in Berg, 2016:14)