Expanding the Scope of Digital Labour Research


Expanding the Scope of Digital Labour Research

Post by Stevphen »

Expanding the Scope of Digital Labour Research: Integrating AI Data Workers and High-Skilled Technological Labour into the Debate
Wednesday June 5th @ 12PM, online: https://essex-university.zoom.us/j/92192750225
Tongyu Wu, Zhejiang University
https://www.essex.ac.uk/events/2024/06/ ... r-research

Digital labour studies have traditionally focused on low-skilled workers, such as food delivery couriers and internet influencers, to emphasize their precarity under informational capitalism. This presentation aims to broaden digital labour research by extending the labour chain to include lower-status, cutting-edge workers such as AI data annotators; incorporating high-skilled technological labour; and unveiling the critical, yet unseen skills and organisational frameworks that underpin the digital industry.

This talk is grounded in two empirical case studies. First, this talk examines China’s AI data annotation work. Data tasks – accumulating, classifying, and annotating are vital for AI development. Based on three years of ethnographic research and 154interviews, this study illustrates how annotation work bridges the gap between human values and machine recognition. Two factors are pivotal in fostering such human-machine complementarity: firstly,the necessity for annotators to continually adapt their “pedagogical skills” either through “upskilling” or “down skilling” in response to evolving AI technologies; secondly, the role of diverse intermediary organisations in facilitating skill adjustments, disciplining annotators, and addressing emerging labour issues.

The discussion then turns to highly skilled tech workers, critiquing the oversight of this new generation of tech workers whose roles complicate the understanding of technological advancements,algorithm transparency, and the disparity between skill levels.Drawing from Tongyu Wu’s forthcoming book, Play to Submission:Gaming Capitalism in a Tech Firm (2024, Temple University Press),this segment explores the “field of games” in engineering processes at “Behemoth” (a pseudonym for a top American tech company). This13-month ethnography suggests that gamification could define the future of work for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers amid increasing capitalist demands for technological innovation and iteration.

Bio: Tongyu Wu is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Zhejiang University. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Oregon,complemented by a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Sun Yat-sen University. Wu’s research embodies an interdisciplinary approach,situated at the intersection of labour, technology studies,globalization, and gender. Her latest work, a forthcoming book titled Playing to Submission: Gaming Capitalism in a Tech Firm,delves into the gamification of software development processes at a leading technology firm in Silicon Valley, U.S.A. In addition to her book, Wu’s scholarship has been featured in several journals,including the Journal of Contemporary China, New Technology, Work and Employment, Sociological Perspectives, Sociological Review of China, The Economic and Labour Relations Review, and The Journal of Chinese Sociology. Currently, she is working on a project exploring the human labour that underpins artificial intelligence.