Tipwork, Gigwork, Microwork

Keynote - Annie McClanahan

Friday 28th August 17:00 – 18:00

This workshop will discuss a forthcoming essay by Annie McClanahan titled “Tipwork, Gigwork, Microwork.” The essay takes up the relationship between automation and service work. Service work has historically been a technologically inefficient sector, difficult to fully automate and thus doomed to low wages and informalization, as the history of tip wages makes clear. But because 80% of today’s employment is now in this inefficient sector, the service sector has begun to turn to automation just as manufacturing once did—not to replace human labor, but rather to eke out smaller improvements in productivity through technical rationalization, technologically-enabled outsourcing, and the automation of managerial functions. The essay turns to Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT), an online “microwork” platform–which uses piece-rate wages to ensure the kind of overwork Marx termed “sweating”—as an exemplary case study for this relation. It also looks to the way both artists and scholars are using AMT either to critique it, or to take advantage of its hyper-exploitation. (A second and entirely optional essay titled “TV and Tipworkification” will also be made available.)

Please note: you will need to read Annie McClanahan’s text “Tipwork, Gigwork, Microwork” in advance to participate in this session. Access to this text will be provided after you sign up on Eventbrite.

Annie McClanahan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and 21st Century Culture (Stanford UP, 2016) and has published in boundary 2, theory & event, South Atlantic Quarterly, Representations, Post45, Journal of American Studies, Journal of Cultural Economy, and elsewhere. Her current book in progress is titled “Tipwork, Gigwork, Automation: Culture After the Formal Wage.”