• The Design of Creative Crowdwork – From Tools for Empowerment to Platform Capitalism

Schmidt, Florian Alexander, 2015, Thesis, The Design of Creative Crowdwork – From Tools for Empowerment to Platform Capitalism PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The thesis investigates the methods used in the contemporary crowdsourcing of creative crowdwork and in particular the succession of conflicting ideas and concepts that led to the development of dedi- cated, profit-oriented, online platforms after 2005 for the outsourcing of cognitive tasks and creative labour to a large and unspecified group of people via open calls on the internet.
It traces the historic trajectory of the notion of the crowd as well as the development of tech- nologies for online collaboration, with a focus on the accompanying narratives in the form of a dis- course analysis. One focus of the thesis is the clash between the narrative of the empowerment of the individual user through digital tools and the reinvention of the concept of the crowd as a way to refer to users of online platforms in their aggregate form. The thesis argues that the revivification of the notion of the crowd is indicative of a power shift that has diminished the agency of the individual user and empowered the commercial platform providers who, in turn, take unfair advantage of the crowdworker.
The thesis examines the workings and the rhetoric of these platforms by comparing the way they address the masses today with historic notions of the crowd, formed by authors like Gustave Le Bon, Sigmund Freud and Elias Canetti. Today’s practice of crowdwork is also juxtaposed with older, arguably more humanist, visions of distributed online collaboration, collective intelligence, free soft- ware and commons-based peer production. The study is a history of ideas, taking some of the utopian concepts of early online history as a vantage point from which to view current and, at times, dystopian applications of crowdsourced creative labour online. The goal is to better understand the social mech- anisms employed by the platforms to motivate and control the crowds they gather, and to uncover the parameters that define their structure as well as the scope for their potential redesign.
At its core, the thesis offers a comparison of Amazon Mechanical Turk (2005), the most prominent and infamous example for so-called microtasking or cognitive piecework, with the design of platforms for contest-based creative crowdwork, in particular with Jovoto (2007) and 99designs (2008). The crowdsourcing of design work is organised in decidedly differently ways to other forms of digital labour and the question is why should that be so? What does this tell us about changes in the practice and commissioning of design and what are its effects on design as a profession? However, the thesis is not just about the crowdsourcing of design work: it is also about the design of crowdsourcing as a system. It is about the ethics of these human-made, contingent social systems that are promoted as the future of work. The question underlying the entire thesis is: can crowdsourcing be designed in a way that is fair and sustainable to all stakeholders?
The analysis is based on an extensive study of literature from Design Studies, Media and Cul- ture Studies, Business Studies and Human-Computer Interaction, combined with participant observa- tion within several crowdsourcing platforms for design and a series of interviews with different stake- holders.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
Creative Arts and Design > W800 Imaginative Writing > W890 Imaginative Writing not elsewhere classified
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2015 15:35
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2018 15:45
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1690
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