The Collaboration and Communication Networks within the Crowd



Title: The Collaboration and Communication Networks within the Crowd

Speaker: Siddharth Suri, Microsoft Research, New York City

Time: 12:301:30pm

Room: Newell-Simon Hall 1507

Title: The Collaboration and Communication Networks within the Crowd

Since its inception, crowdsourcing has been considered a black-box approach to solicit labor from a crowd of workers. Furthermore, the crowd has been viewed as a group of independent workers dispersed all over the world. One goal of this work is to show that crowdworkers collaborate to fulfill technical and social needs left by the platform they work on. That is, crowdworkers are not the independent, autonomous workers they are often assumed to be, but instead work within a social network of other crowdworkers. Crowdworkers collaborate with members of their networks to 1) manage the administrative overhead associated with crowdwork, 2) find lucrative tasks and reputable employers and 3) recreate the social connections and support often associated with brick and mortar-work environments. We also build on and extend these discoveries by mapping the entire communication network of workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk, a leading crowdsourcing platform. We execute a task in which over 10,000 workers from across the globe self-report their communication links to other workers, thereby mapping the communication network among workers. Our results suggest that while a large percentage of workers indeed appear to be independent, there is a rich network topology over the rest of the population. That is, there is a substantial communication network within the crowd. The existence of these networks could have implications for the burgeoning literature that involves conducting behavioral experiments and research on crowdsourcing sites. Overall, our evidence combines ethnography, interviews, survey data and larger scale data analysis from four crowdsourcing platforms. This paper draws from an ongoing, longitudinal study of crowdwork that uses a mixed methods approach to understand the cultural meaning, political implications, and ethical demands of crowdsourcing. 

Siddharth “Sid” Suri is a computational social scientist.  His research lies at the intersection of computer science, behavioral economics and crowdsourcing.  Sid is currently writing a book with Mary Gray titled “On-Demand: Crowds, Platform Economies, and the Future of Work in Precarious Times” that combines ethnography and computer science to understand the future of work.

Sid earned his Ph.D. in computer and information science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007 under the supervision of Michael Kearns. After that he was a postdoctoral associate working with Jon Kleinberg in the computer science department at Cornell University.  Then he moved to the Human & Social Dynamics group at Yahoo! Research led by Duncan Watts.  Currently, Sid is one of the founding members of Microsoft Research, New York City.