Conference digital labor and data science

Conference “Digital Labor and Data Science”

The conference was a great success! 6 speakers shared their insights on digital labor and data science, from a variety of angles. Gabriele Paolacci, keynote for the day, summarized 6 years of studies he conducted with co-authors on the population of workers active on the “Amazon Mechanical Turk”, the leading platform for crowd sourcing used extensibely by social scientists.

Then Livio Lumbroso from Localeyes and Marianne Medoni for Foule Factory presented these 2 companies specialized in different kinds of crowd sourcing, and the challenges they face in coordinating labor in a context where the legal framework is barely emerging.

We followed next with Antonio Casilli, sociologist and critical observer of digital labor for a long time now, who recapped the different forms of digital labor developing, well beyond crowd sourcing. Uber drivers, click farms, food delivery cycle riders, and content generation by consumers, are all eligible forms of digital labor. Antonio introduced the concept of “platform labor”, characterized by the externalization of labor relations outside the traditional boundaries of the firm.

Dr. Christina J. Colclough could not attend, so I made a presentation of Umigon, a project developed in class at em lyon business school where students and future managers get involved in a real life experience of crowd sourcing for an algorithm: they are both workers and managers of this product. The hope, I explained, was to make the students well aware of the benefits and drawbacks of such an organization of labor, including the issue of property rights and revenue sharing. Being the presenter, I forgot to launch the video recording, but you can find more details on the Umigon blog:

The lunch break was the occasion to visit the new campus of em lyon business school in Paris, which was hosted  us for the day. Brand new offices over 4 floors in the heart of Paris, near Gare de Lyon!

We went back to the conference room for a talk by Neha Gupta, who presented the results of her ethnographical work documenting the work of turkers in a region of India, uncovering the multiple ways work as turker is conducted by a variety of individuals, from households to students, in a distant relationship with the employers who define the tasks they work on.

Netta Kaminsky contributed on the profession of data science, which is the central question of her PhD thesis: can data scientists  be identified as a profession, or is data science an occupation without the formal markers of what constitutes a profession? She laid out a series of criteria, which data science seems not to meet yet.

Finally Alessandro Gandini closed the day with a sociological examination of digital labor in the perspective of the long history of the study of labour processes: to what extent is digital labor matching the definitions and intellectual characterizations of labor as codified by sociologists in the XXth century.

You will find below the filmed versions of these talks. Some are missing for confidentiality reasons, and one other is cut because of a technical incident.

Slides will get online soon, stay tuned!

We are seriously interested in conducting a similar event in 2017, do get in touch if you’d be interested in co-hosting or contributing in another manner!

Clément Levallois and Marie-Rachel Jacob ( and

By | 2017-02-09T00:12:27+00:00 October 25th, 2016|english, event|0 Comments

About the Author:

Clement Levallois is Associate Professor and Head of the Data R&D Insitute at emlyon business school. More info at

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