skip to main content

Title: Quantifying the Invisible Labor in Crowd Work
Crowdsourcing markets provide workers with a centralized place to find paid work. What may not be obvious at first glance is that, in addition to the work they do for pay, crowd workers also have to shoulder a variety of unpaid invisible labor in these markets, which ultimately reduces workers' hourly wages. Invisible labor includes finding good tasks, messaging requesters, or managing payments. However, we currently know little about how much time crowd workers actually spend on invisible labor or how much it costs them economically. To ensure a fair and equitable future for crowd work, we need to be certain that workers are being paid fairly for ALL of the work they do. In this paper, we conduct a field study to quantify the invisible labor in crowd work. We build a plugin to record the amount of time that 100 workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk dedicate to invisible labor while completing 40,903 tasks. If we ignore the time workers spent on invisible labor, workers' median hourly wage was $3.76. But, we estimated that crowd workers in our study spent 33% of their time daily on invisible labor, dropping their median hourly wage to $2.83. We found that the invisible labor differentially impacts workers depending on their skill level and workers' demographics. The invisible labor category that took the most time and that was also the most common revolved around workers having to manage their payments. The second most time-consuming invisible labor category involved hyper-vigilance, where workers vigilantly watched over requesters' profiles for newly posted work or vigilantly searched for labor. We hope that through our paper, the invisible labor in crowdsourcing becomes more visible, and our results help to reveal the larger implications of the continuing invisibility of labor in crowdsourcing.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Computer supported cooperative work CSCW
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    The artificial intelligence (AI) industry has created new jobs that are essential to the real world deployment of intelligent systems. Part of the job focuses on labeling data for machine learning models or having workers complete tasks that AI alone cannot do. These workers are usually known as ‘crowd workers’—they are part of a large distributed crowd that is jointly (but separately) working on the tasks although they are often invisible to end-users, leading to workers often being paid below minimum wage and having limited career growth. In this chapter, we draw upon the field of human–computer interaction to provide research methods for studying and empowering crowd workers. We present our Computational Worker Leagues which enable workers to work towards their desired professional goals and also supply quantitative information about crowdsourcing markets. This chapter demonstrates the benefits of this approach and highlights important factors to consider when researching the experiences of crowd workers. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Crowdworkers depend on Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) as an important source of income and it is left to workers to determine which tasks on AMT are fair and worth completing. While there are existing tools that assist workers in making these decisions, workers still spend significant amounts of time finding fair labor. Difficulties in this process may be a contributing factor in the imbalance between the median hourly earnings ($2.00/hour) and what the average requester pays ($11.00/hour). In this paper, we study how novices and experts select what tasks are worth doing. We argue that differences between the two populations likely lead to the wage imbalances. For this purpose, we first look at workers' comments in TurkOpticon (a tool where workers share their experience with requesters on AMT). We use this study to start to unravel what fair labor means for workers. In particular, we identify the characteristics of labor that workers consider is of "good quality'' and labor that is of "poor quality'' (e.g., work that pays too little.) Armed with this knowledge, we then conduct an experiment to study how experts and novices rate tasks that are of both good and poor quality. Through our research we uncover that experts and novices both treat good quality labor in the same way. However, there are significant differences in how experts and novices rate poor quality labor, and whether they believe the poor quality labor is worth doing. This points to several future directions, including machine learning models that support workers in detecting poor quality labor, and paths for educating novice workers on how to make better labor decisions on AMT. 
    more » « less
  3. We present a crowd-driven adjudication system for rejected work on Amazon Mechanical Turk. The Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform allows Requesters to approve or reject assignments submitted by Workers. If the work is rejected, then Workers aren’t paid, and their reputation suffers. Currently, there is no built-in mechanism for Workers to appeal rejections, other than contacting Requesters directly. The time it takes Requesters to review potentially incorrectly rejected tasks means that their costs are substantially higher than the payment amount that is in dispute. As a solution to this issue, we present an automated appeals system called Turkish Judge which employs crowd workers as judges to adjudicate whether work was fairly rejected when their peers initiate an appeal. We describe our system, analyze the added cost to Requesters, and discuss the advantages of such a system to the Mechanical Turk marketplace and other similar microtasking platforms. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Crowdsourced content creation like articles or slogans can be powered by crowds of volunteers or workers from paid task markets. Volunteers often have expertise and are intrinsically motivated, but are a limited resource, and are not always reliably available. On the other hand, paid crowd workers are reliably available, can be guided to produce high-quality content, but cost money. How can these different populations of crowd workers be leveraged together to power cost-effective yet high-quality crowd-powered content-creation systems? To answer this question, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each. We conducted an online study where we hired paid crowd workers and recruited volunteers from social media to complete three content creation tasks for three real-world non-profit organizations that focus on empowering women. These tasks ranged in complexity from simply generating keywords or slogans to creating a draft biographical article. Our results show that paid crowds completed work and structured content following editorial guidelines more effectively. However, volunteer crowds provide content that is more original. Based on the findings, we suggest that crowd-powered content-creation systems could gain the best of both worlds by leveraging volunteers to scaffold the direction that original content should take; while having paid crowd workers structure content and prepare it for real world use. 
    more » « less
  5. Mobile and web apps are increasingly relying on the data generated or provided by users such as from their uploaded documents and images. Unfortunately, those apps may raise significant user privacy concerns. Specifically, to train or adapt their models for accurately processing huge amounts of data continuously collected from millions of app users, app or service providers have widely adopted the approach of crowdsourcing for recruiting crowd workers to manually annotate or transcribe the sampled ever-changing user data. However, when users' data are uploaded through apps and then become widely accessible to hundreds of thousands of anonymous crowd workers, many human-in-the-loop related privacy questions arise concerning both the app user community and the crowd worker community. In this paper, we propose to investigate the privacy risks brought by this significant trend of large-scale crowd-powered processing of app users' data generated in their daily activities. We consider the representative case of receipt scanning apps that have millions of users, and focus on the corresponding receipt transcription tasks that appear popularly on crowdsourcing platforms. We design and conduct an app user survey study (n=108) to explore how app users perceive privacy in the context of using receipt scanning apps. We also design and conduct a crowd worker survey study (n=102) to explore crowd workers' experiences on receipt and other types of transcription tasks as well as their attitudes towards such tasks. Overall, we found that most app users and crowd workers expressed strong concerns about the potential privacy risks to receipt owners, and they also had a very high level of agreement with the need for protecting receipt owners' privacy. Our work provides insights on app users' potential privacy risks in crowdsourcing, and highlights the need and challenges for protecting third party users' privacy on crowdsourcing platforms. We have responsibly disclosed our findings to the related crowdsourcing platform and app providers.

    more » « less