Laborers of Love
Collaboration with Jeff Crouse
Perspectives on Imaginary Futures
House of Electronic Arts, Basel, Switzerland
Time & Motion: Redefining Work Life
FACT (Foundation for Art & Creative Technology), Liverpool, England
2013 Transmediale, BWPWAP: Desire, Berlin, Germany
Technolust, Magic Lantern Cinema, Providence, RI
“Laborers of Love/LOL” is a crowdsourcing project that explores how sexuality and desire are mediated through new technologies, specifically new models of global, outsourced labor. The project takes the form of an Internet service that uses anonymous online workers to create “customers” video fantasies. Utilizing Mechanical Turk, an online job engine created by Amazon.com (mturk.com), LOL leverages a global online workforce of workers that are not specific to the sex industry but rather a diverse group of home/computer based workers. In an assembly-line fashion, Mechanical Turk workers collect images and video related to the fantasy from a variety of websites. A real time data visualization is then presented on the website consisting of worker locations (Waco, Texas; Bangalore, India; etc) and IP addresses of the mined content (images and video). This visualization maps the process and “production” of the video fantasy. The final product is a short video mashup, more funny than sexy, where 1970’s experimental cinema meets canned Photoshop filters, and ultimately reflects on how desire and pleasure are represented, fragmented and abstracted through the consumption of online digital media.
The project evolved from another of our recent projects, “Invisible Threads”, a virtual designer jeans sweatshop created in the online 3D world of Second Life that hires Second Life residents to operate virtual textile machines that manufacture real world, wearable jeans. This project provided the context for “Laborers of Love”, which, instead of Second Life, uses Mechanical Turk, an online crowdsourcing engine, to create custom-ordered pornographic images and videos.
About Mechanical Turk:
Mechanical Turk (www.mechanicalturk.com) is an internet application created by Amazon.com that uses crowdsourcing – “the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call” (Wikipedia). With Mechanical Turk, most of the jobs are a few steps beyond automation – still requiring human intelligence to complete the task. Businesses list jobs and online workers get paid to fulfill the tasks requested. For example, a task might be to evaluate if two online product images are the same or to choose an appropriate category for an item. In addition, marketing companies are now using Mechanical Turk as an inexpensive way to collect more psychological and emotional information about consumers. For instance, Mechanical Turk workers getting paid to answer an online survey about products and services that gauges their behaviors, preferences and values.