Sunday, December 21, 2014

Crowdsourcing: Taylorism, tech, online temp work, #adjunct labor

Not all of the many email newsletters hitting my inbox are about education, ed-tech, higher ed, academic casuals or activism. This week, Baffler featured a salvo against the scams and schemes of the tech world, Jacob Silverman's essay "The Crowdsourcing Scam." (with more excellent illustrations by ©Lisa Haney, example below). 

HaneyBaflr3The article refers to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Uber and Yelp ~ among others, not adjuncts, but could apply just as well to the employment and workplace management practices in adjunct-dependent for-profit and non-profit institutions. The editors refer to the article as "another fiery salvo." I want to read the others too.  In a similar vein, read Deb Baker's On being 'discontinued'❞ (via +George Station on G+, also re-blogged on As the Adjunctiverse Turns)

In today's fractured economy, where tasks are increasingly farmed out to low-wage and temp workers, "the result is an extreme form of Taylorism: in boom conditions, workers have more tiny tasks than they can say yes to, but they acquire no skills...they have no contact with other workers, and they have no chance to advance or unionize," Silverman writes. "Imagine a factory in which each employee wears blinders and can see only the thing in front of him on the conveyor belt."

Caveat: as someone who tries to keep up with and uses ed-tech and information technology, I'd qualify the article's network criticism as applying to disconnected networks (an oxymoron in Social Network Analysis, aka SNA) that isolate users, further divided into content/service providers and consumers, instead of connecting them.

Take away the elements of neoliberal Taylorism and connect not divide or isolate participants: something quite different emerges, more like a connectivist mooc, Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning (#rhizo14) and  Connected Courses (
#ccourses). Crowdsourcing could also include surveys and information gathering requests posted to social media and listservs, and Josh Boldt's Adjunct Project as well as online funding/fund raising projects and petitions ~ all indispensable to online adjunct activism.

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