[NetBehaviour] Representing Labor: Ten Thousand Cents and Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Feb 1 16:36:39 CET 2010
Representing Labor: Ten Thousand Cents and Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
review by Madeleine Clare Elish
Ten Thousand Cents" is a digital artwork that creates a representation
of a $100 bill. Using a custom drawing tool, thousands of individuals
working in isolation from one another painted a tiny part of the bill
without knowledge of the overall task. Workers were paid one cent each
via Amazon's Mechanical Turk distributed labor tool. The total labor
cost to create the bill, the artwork being created, and the
reproductions available for purchase (to charity) are all $100. The work
is presented as a video piece with all 10,000 parts being drawn
simultaneously. The project explores the circumstances we live in, a new
and uncharted combination of digital labor markets, "crowdsourcing,"
"virtual economies," and digital reproduction.
"Arriving at the homepage of Ten Thousand Cents, an Internet artwork by
Aaron Koblin and Takashi Kawashima, a mottled image of a one hundred
dollar bill slowly fades into view. Ben Franklin looks out sedately.
Mousing over the large image, the cursor is replaced with a small red
rectangle. And here lays the beauty of the project; with the click of
each rectangle, a zoomed in portion of the one hundred dollar bill is
revealed. On the left side is a high-resolution photograph of that tiny
portion of the bill. On the right side, a real-time moving image plays,
revealing how the image was drawn by a human hand in a drawing program
created by Koblin and Kawashima. There are, in fact, 10,000 such
rectangles and each was created by a Turker through Amazon's Mechanical
Aaron Koblin is a media designer and artist focused on the creation and
visualization of human systems. Currently working out of San Francisco,
California, Aaron transforms large abstract data sets into humanly
contextualized information. In doing so, he hopes to raise at least as
many questions as he answers. Takashi Kawashima is a designer and media
artist living in San Francisco. His work explores the re-contextualizing
of commonplace items to create new awareness of the mundane.
About Madeleine Clare Elish:
Currently studying as a Masters student in the Comparative Media Studies
at MIT in Boston. Her thesis for the program is focusing on print and TV
advertising about early personal computers. Madeleine is particularly
interested in thinking through how material objects extend and sustain
agency and social relationships, as well as critical studies of
technological innovation and consumer culture.
Equally important is Madeleine's interest and research about the
communities and practices of technology, research and activist -based
art. She has a degree in Art History from Columbia University in New
York. Worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the commercial
art gallery, Gavin Brown's enterprise (as well as an assortment of other
jobs!) Last year I was involved in Boston's Cyberarts Festival as a
"correspondent." More recently, Madeleine spent the summer with the
folks at the Medialab Prado in Madrid, working on a (still in process)
research project about collaborative modes of artistic practice. Also
currently involved in the planning stages of a digital archive project
at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies and Visual Arts Program.
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