A digital sweatshop is an online company that recruits people to perform repetitive small jobs and /or specialized projects, generally at home on the workers’ own computers, from a wage of anything from a few cents per task to hundreds of dollars per project. Digital sweatshops represent a phenomenon in a recent trend that offers workers and the employers the freedom to accept and request services. However, some believe that completing repetitive tasks for very small amount of money is an act of exploitation, hence the term sweatshop. A notable example is the Amazon Mechanical Turk, a marketplace dedicated to crowdsourcing, but other examples of online staffing platforms include: Odesk, Glance, Guru, Freelancer and PeoplePerHour. Fifteen years ago, this industry did not exist. But today (after an acceleration starting around 2007) it generates about $1B+ in global revenues, consists of over 50 firms, and is growing at high double-digit growth rates.
Digital Labour: Internet users currently create most of the content that makes up the web: they search, link, tweet, and post updates—leaving their “deep” data exposed. Meanwhile, governments listen in, and big corporations track, analyze, and predict users’ interests and habits. In this way, the division between leisure and work has disappeared such that every aspect of life drives the digital economy. This has also been termed playbor (play/labor), the lure of exploitation and the potential for empowerment.
But digital labour also exists within a broader context of global labour practices and slavery that contribute to the production and distribution of the devices that we use. In a global context, we exist in the top 20 percent of wealth. But most of the people who create the products we use do not have access to them
This ecology of device production and digital labour practices can breifly be explored through the following terms. I urge you to research them.
Here are some other links that can help put together a bigger picture of the networked economy of labour practices.
SLAVERY FOOTPRINT – How many slaves work for you?
There are alternatives such as the fair-trade phone
What is the environmental impact of the internet?