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This article was published on March 26, 2008


    Artist impression of a ‘virtual sweatshop’

    Artist impression of a ‘virtual sweatshop’
    Ernst-Jan Pfauth
    Story by

    Ernst-Jan Pfauth

    Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.

    You probably know the Amazon Mechanical Turk. It’s a crowdsourcing marketplace that makes up for the inabilities of computer programs. You can buy some human intelligence for prices of a few cents. Oh, and human intelligence might sound good, but most of the tasks are repetitive and boring. Combine that with the low prices and you understand why some critics call the Mechanical Turk a ‘virtual sweatshop‘.

    Mechanical TurkLet’s face it, new working technologies and labor systems often arouse negative feelings. We don’t like things to change. News about outsourcing journalistic work frightens us since it doesn’t match with our beliefs about the profession of journalism.

    Artist Aaron Koblin finds his inspiration in trends and changes in this information age. According to his website, the San Francisco- based artist ‘playfully turns lots of data into lots of information’ in order to raise questions.

    On Wired I’ve noticed a video about his latest project The Sheep Market. He asked the ‘providers’ of The Mechanical Turk to ‘draw a sheep facing to the left’ for 2 dollar cents. He received 10,000 sheeps and combined them into one art piece. From far away, it looks like a some sort of bar code, but when you come closer you notice the small drawings: data turns into info.

    [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mmb5aSscck]