A new category of workers has appeared alongside the rise of Internet marketplaces, where people are paid to perform Human Intelligence Tasks: small tasks that confuse machines and cannot be achieved by computers. Often referred to as micro workers, they can be hired for fees ranging from dollars to single pennies per submission. They colour-code clothing images for retailers, trace object boundaries to help computer vision tasks or censor “unsafe” content from Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Guido Segni used Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk to reveal the faces of the hidden “cloud proletariat” dispersed around the world. He asked each worker to take a picture of themselves in front of their own webcam following these rules: to show their face, their context and their middle finger response. The result is a curated portrait series of crowd workers in their domestic/working environment, showing us the finger. The work is both a cynical take on the exploitation of online workers and a sincere attempt to establish a dialogue between the artist, the public and the crowd. It also raises issues of new concepts of value, wages, and new relations between leisure and labour. Finally The Middle Finger Response shows us the human faces behind recent practices of “cloud labour”, a portrait of the digital working class along with the effects of neoliberal deregulation.
SITUATION #41: Guido Segni, The Middle Finger Response, 2013