Call for Applications: AoIR Preconference Workshop on Labor

by | May 24, 2016 | Conferences

Call for Papers
Studying Labor: A Workshop on Theory and Methods as part of the AoIR 2016 PreConference Workshops in Berlin

Confirmed Facilitators :
Nancy Baym (Microsoft Research)
Mary L. Gray (Microsoft Research/Indiana University)
Kylie Jarrett (National University of Ireland Maynooth)
Ellen Seiter (University of Southern California)

Individual users populate websites from Ok Cupid to Facebook with content and social interactions, becoming integrated into the economic calculations of commercial digital media platforms.  On-demand labor platforms, like Amazon Mechanical Turk, route seemingly isolated people to microtasks, click by click creating the illusion of full automation. Sharing or peer economies, like AirBnB, RelayRides, and Etsy, driven by logics of “unlocking latent assets,” present their mix of leisure time and private property as liberating. Musicians, politicians and other professionals post to social media in hopes of connecting with audiences, citizens and clients to build relationships that further employment. And sites like Reddit, and Wikipedia rely on the coordinated labor of dedicated participants moderating harassment and facilitating conversations online.

These are but a few of the ways that labor is reconfigured by and reconfiguring the internet. Information, relationships, goods, and services rely on mergers of code and human labor coursing through the internet to circulate the sweat and fruits of labor, on and offline. Whether through data mining digital exhaust or deploying bots and Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, a blend of computational and human power facilitate delivery of everything from targeted, personal ads, debugged code and content moderation to marketing materials, political messages, calls for take-out orders and rides to the airport.

Just as internet studies transformed how we think about the formation of identities and organization of civic discourse and action, it is poised to offer insights on the meaning and future of labor in a networked, thoroughly-mediated world.

This workshop, part of the preconference workshops the day before the main AoIR conference in Berlin, will convene graduate student and early-career AoIR members working on a specific project that examines how new labor works and the shape that it takes vis-à-vis digital networks and technologies.

The goals of the workshop are to:

  • Share fruitful methods, including empirical, interpretive and critical frameworks.
  • Share theoretical approaches for understanding labor as both distributed and localized, personal and institutional.
  • Elaborate existing theories and practices of labor that internet research might draw on to make sense of the productive force of human effort
  • Consider together how internet research can contribute to new ways of understanding the relationships of exchange, both in and beyond markets, that define the value of social life.
  • Mentor graduate and early-career scholars currently working on research about labor and the internet as they turn that work into a published article, series of articles, or set of chapters.

Because we hope for substantive discussion of each person’s project, we will limit the workshop to no more than 20 presenters. An additional 10-20 non-presenting participants may be selected from applicants to the workshop and invited to attend the discussion of participants’ papers.

People interested in attending this workshop should submit a one-page summary of their research and an abstract of the article or chapter-length manuscript they would like to workshop with their peers, including (as appropriate) its focus, theoretical orientation, methodology, stage of completion, and key findings to date.  If there is a particular aspect of the work that applicants are most interested to workshop, they should indicate that as well. Interested people should send applications to baym at by June 24, 2016.

Workshop Schedule:

  • June 24: Applications emailed to Nancy Baym at baym at
  • July 15: All those who have submitted a proposal will be notified of the status of their proposal.
  • July 29: All those invited to present papers or attend as non-presenting participants will confirm their workshop attendance and will register to attend the conference in Berlin.
  • September 19: Accepted paper presenters will submit an updated and extended version of their project summary and manuscript outline so that those attending will have some familiarity with each others’ work, allowing us to focus discussion on substantive questions rather than project descriptions.
  • September 26: Paper presenters will receive their workgroup assignments and asked to prepare a formal response to each paper in their group. This response should include one constructive, encouraging statement about “what’s working” for each project summary; at least two questions for each paper presenter to help them think about places to elaborate or redirect their argument; and at least two reading suggestions (annotated with full citation and 1 paragraph summary of the reading suggestion).

During the AoIR preconference workshop, each participant will briefly present their work. At least one facilitator will be designated to lead discussion on what the presented paper needs to move successfully toward publication.