The Flow of Digital Labor
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionNew Media and Society, 2017, (11), 1868-1886 10.1177/1461444816644566
Digital microwork is a type of labor that many—typically poorly paid—workers engage in. In our research, we focus on an experience-based model of digital labor and the nonmonetary benefits derived from such activities. Based on a survey of 701 workers at Amazon Mechanical Turk, we demonstrate that experiences during digital labor sequences generate flow-like states of immersion. We show that reaching flow-like states while performing microwork depends on certain work characteristics, such as the particular worker’s degree of autonomy, the extent to which a worker’s skills are utilized, and the apparent significance of and feedback derived from the task. The results both highlight the importance of flow-like immersion in explaining why individuals engage in digital labor projects and point to avenues that can lead to the design of better digital work experiences.