Crowdsourcing’s biggest benefit is the ability to receive better quality results. Several people offer their best ideas, skills, and support and you can choose among them what best fits your needs. Crowdsourcing allows you to select the best result from best entries, as opposed to receiving the best entry from a single provider. Results can be delivered much quicker than traditional methods, since crowdsourcing is a form of freelancing. Crowdsourcing is definitely a form of discounted labor, which has grown in grown over the past ten years. Some can say that crowdsourcing, in some ways, has led to an open source for certain technologies. The Google App store for example is open source and crowdsources most of its apps. Crowdsourcing can also be found at Wikipedia, which is probably the best known example of that.
Reality TV show contestants are another example of the cheapened or discounted form of labor created from the rise of digital media. These contestants show up and get paid little to know money to provide entertainment to the masses. Most of the time these are young people who are in these reality shows. These young people look at this as an opportunity to be on tv and in some cases a bigger exposure in the entertainment industry. Historically, there have been a few people who have transitioned to be more than just reality show contestants and now with reality shows focusing on more than just contests we are seeing these reality tv shows that provide an income to people that has never been seen before.
Cheaper discounted work from users and participants is a great point that Ross makes regarding cheap labor, and reasons due to other forms of media. I will use the Reality TV show contestant for example; while we watch these shows whether we want to admit it or not, we are using them as a form of entertainment. Contestants and participants of reality show television are exploited in a way that their lives are exposed and used to depict real life actions as a way to gain exposure and fame. These contestants and participants are often used as a cheapened and discounted form of labor by the media to be use for entertainment purposes in order to bring business such as advertisements to the media forum for capital gain.
In this chapter Ross talks about feminization of labor. Free internships are very popular now our days and it is growing very fast. Internship gives you big opportunities in life but it doesn’t give you any guarantee for your future. Ross talks about how free labor and women are connected. The majority of the unpaid internships are women. Most not paying or law paying jobs and internships belong to women. What people want from free internships is to get a job they like but you have to be very lucky to be able to move into some stable job. I feel like females open to do different types of jobs when men you usually see in finance area: The difficulty for women: “While less than 10% of registered apprentices are female, women tend to dominate the most precarious sectors of white-collar and no-collar employment, and it is no surprise that they are assigned the majority of unpaid internships – 77% according to one survey”. Internship labor “blurs the line between task and contrast, between duty and opportunity and between affective and instrumental work. Women are disproportionately burdened when these kinds of boundaries are eliminated”.
This is very sad but it is a reality. I know a lot of people who have good diplomas from different collages, who did internships but still don’t have jobs. Unfortunately they have to work as waitress and in different clothing stores until they will get lucky and find what they have been looking for, the paid job.
In the “Computers Are Not to Blame chapter”, Andrew Ross stated that, “There is no doubt that new media, which has the technical capacity to shrink the price of distribution to almost zero, is hosting the most fast-moving industrial efforts to harness the unpaid effort of participants” (Ross, p. 32). One of the examples that Ross used to show the cheapened and discounted form of labor associated with the rise of digital media was the rise of self-service. Before, when people needed to make phone calls, they have to connect with a telephone operator first. But now, we dial by ourselves. When we call customer service, we often listen and respond to automated voice messages and “robo-voices” instead of an actual customer service representative. It is still possible to speak with an actual representative, but still, it’s a robo-voice who answers the call first. Actual customer service representatives are also outsourced in other countries for lower wages which allows companies to save on costs and reap bigger profits. Another example that Ross used was the reality TV show contestants. They are not considered actors, so they do not receive the same benefits the professional actors do. Even other members of the team working on the reality TV programming such as production assistants, drivers, technical crew, and others are not paid equally as those team members working on scripted movies or shows. They work long hours without meal breaks for the price of half of what the employees on scripted shows are paid without any health or other benefits.
Ross Definitions: Distributed Labor
According to Andrew Ross, “distributed labor has been suggested as a way of describing the use of the Internet to mobilize the spare processing power of a widely dispersed crowd of discrete individuals” (Ross, p. 29).This term was previously used to describe the way businesses corresponded with employees working from different places at different times and also mobile office. These days, distributed labor is used to describe users who provide their input or content but do not view their contributions as a form of labor. The new kind of distributed labor also includes workers taking on different small tasks requiring minimal concentration only. Unlike the old distributed labor that relied on relocation and cheap labor markets to save costs, the new type of distributed labor that is being used by businesses today save money through remotely hiring employees who are comparatively talented as the employees here in the US at lower costs. “Microtasks” or the jobs that require only little amount of time and/or concentration also allow businesses to save on costs. This type of tasks, however, requires that the task or the job be broken down into small pieces like puzzles and bits. Ross also added that, “Taskers are effectively deskilled, dispersed, and deprived of any knowledge about the nature of the product to which their labor contributes” (Ross, p. 29) Because of this, the person doing the task does not know exactly what the purpose of his job is.
With the rise of digital media, labor has really lost its way in giving back to those who do the most for it. Reality TV has become such a big thing nowadays that as viewers, we sometimes forget that most of the “reality” is actually scripted. These reality shows are not at all expensive to make and they earn back what they spent on it, the first time it is shown on TV. So we are left to question why most of the workers behind the scenes are left in the dust? The eighteen-hour workdays with no meal breaks and no health or any other kind of benefits is blatantly unfair to these workers. Digital media has allowed for this industry to not have a standard for both their workers and what they put out. Ross points out that “…networks have begun to categorize game shows as reality programming in order to produce them without contracts.” This proves that there is no standard to which TV shows fall into. All they want is to pay less so to make more money at the end of the day.
Internships are very common as they are usually more open to young people who are looking for a foot in to the choice of career they want. Most times if the person has done very well in their unpaid internship it opens the chance for an actual job. However, most young people don’t get this opportunity. They are simply used for their work and never heard from again. The companies that hire interns are getting money from this. They take advantage of the intern who just wants to do their best and gain experience. Companies are good at exploiting the youthful mind into thinking that all the professional and challenging work they will do will be worth it in the end, when in reality it’s sadly not the case.
Ross talks at length about the new forms of free or token-wage labor that are available to employers today. He makes a point of saying that while free labor on the web gets most of the attention, it is not only a web problem. One of the increasing uses of free labor is through internships. While some internships, such as those in finance, are often paid, many others are not, especially in the social services or non-profit world. For college students in some concentrations, it is understood that the only way to secure a job after college is to do a summer internship (or 2 or 3) in that field before graduation. An article in the NY Times by Steven Greenhouse describes the lengths some parents will go to in order to have their child work for “experience” but no pay. (Internships Abroad, Unpaid with a $10,00 Price Tag, 2-5-15). In the new normal, some people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for the chance to work. Of course, this creates a disparity between those who can afford to work for nothing (or pay to work) and those who must take a paying job over an unpaid internship. Ross says “The internship is particularly relevant to our overall discussion because most interns do not see themselves as hard done by.” Where people tend to recognize unfair labor practice in say, a sweatshop, they tend not to recognize the exploitation of interns.
As Ross points out, self-service in the digital age also contributes significantly to the cheapening of the labor market. Back when phones that could be dialed by people first replaced telephone operators, the public had to be convinced to take on the task of dialing. When Bank ATMs were first introduced, people feared it was the end of the job of the bank teller and many were skeptical about using them at all. When they first appeared, Citibank actually stationed actors at the newly invented ATMs to convince people to try them. The notion seemed to be that a friendly face (and carefully scripted upbeat dialog) could ease the transition from man to machine. Indeed, ATMs did greatly reduce the number of bank tellers in banks but today we don’t think twice about using them. (I now deposit checks with my phone app– how long until we don’t even need the ATMs?) We now scan our own purchases at CVS and I am sure many stores will soon adopt this cost saving practice as well. Whether it is online or off, we have become accustomed to taking on tasks that workers are no longer being paid to do.
The new trend on cheap labor is what Ross calls “crowdsourcing”. In a time where businesses once utilized tools such as outsourcing, sending jobs overseas where it costs less to run a business, are now using everyday people to gather a plethora of information to gain the most revenue at the lowest possible cost. This type of legal solicitation of groups of talented individuals is just one example of the cheapest form of labor. More and more companies are capitalizing on communal work environments where shared information is the new innovation. They have succeeded in the ability to have writers, artists, and musicians, participate is the end goal, while getting nothing in return.
This extraction of cheap digital labor as Ross calls it, is how companies are able to continue to make a profit while online users are forced to “work” for minimal if not any pay at all. He uses the example of interns and how they are utilized. For “white collar/no collar interns”, engaging in this form of work environment leaves them with little compensation and are made out to believe the greater benefits to their future is worth working for nothing. When in reality, the companies are gaining all of the benefits of a full working week, tasks completed, for a fraction of the cost it would be to hire a full time employee.
With the rise of digital media, digital “free” labor has, according to Ross, expanded.
One example that deserves mentioning is the self-proclaimed online celebrity. YouTube videos of musicians or online personalities sharing their lives and talents for free with the hopes of gaining fame has only increased in recent years. This activity can be viewed as unpaid labor. The more views, and subscribers, the more money YouTube has made. Youtube has even started advertising on buses. It is a way to draw people to watch with the belief that they have a chance too.
Digital Media and Society
October 6, 2015
Throughout this chapter Ross explains how the rise of digital media has given way to what he describes as “token-wage” labor. “In most corners of the information landscape, working for nothing has become normative, and largely because it is not experienced as exploitation.” (17) One way in which corporations have used digital technologies to reduce professional pay scales, is by monetizing the “cognitive surplus”. Corporations are taking advantage of all the free time people have by promoting tasks that feel like fun, thus blurring the line of work and play. One example of this is crowdsourcing. To make his point, Ross directs us to the popularity of the “Comments Section” not only on social media platforms but also in popular news sites, where users that post their comments become a source for extracting ideas, images, and information for little to no compensation. Why pay for a creative team to come up with new ideas for articles when the users can provide them without demanding a salary? “Readers will be gratified to participate” (19) is the underlying principle.
Another aspect of the “corporate race to the bottom” is the distributed labor technique. In this occurrence, the micro division of labor into bits and pieces allows for cost – saving. “Taskers are effectively deskilled, dispersed and deprived of any knowledge about the nature of the product to which their labor contributes” (21). At the same time, this reinforces long-held believes about and among creative types, about sacrificing monetary compensation in return for job gratification. About this Ross writes, “This willingness to donate labor was referred to as self-exploitation”. However Ross, emphasizes that new media is not to be blamed for this token-wage labor economy. In turn he states that “while digital technology did not give birth to the model of free labor, it has proven to be a highly efficient enabler of nonstandard work arrangements”.