Artificial Artificial Intelligence
Ahhhh. Back in the Extreme Craft saddle. I'm tanned, rested, and ready. Lots of great things are popping up on the Extreme Craft Radar--cursor kites, scratchcard wallpaper, and video game cakes, but I when I think about what I'd like to write about, I keep coming back to an article I read on Salon.com about MTurk.com. Maybe I'm just behind the times, but I didn't know about the existence of Amazon.com's "Mechanical Turk" service. Basically, the Mechanical Turk is a way for companies or individual who need lots of labor-intensive data crunching or analysis that can't really be done by computer to divide the task among a bunch of individuals to make it easier and more economical. Mechanical Turk's "workers" are paid anywhere from a penny for simple tasks to around 45 cents per minute for weblog transcriptions.
Critics of the site complain about the "virtual sweatshop" angle and sub-minimum wage prices. People who participate in the cite, though, seem rather enthusiastic about getting paid for mindless work they can accomplish while working on the computer or talking on the phone. The site seems ingenious to me--providing clients with human computing services, while keeping bored people who are between knitting projects from slitting their wrists. Predictably, art projects have already come out of the site, including one by Aaron Koblin, a grad student at UCLA who wrote his dissertation on the service. Koblin offered to pay 2 cents for each drawing submitted of a sheep facing left. He then put 10,000 of the sheep up for sale on a website called The Sheep Market at a (rather steep, admittedly) markup of $20 per 20 sheep.
Maybe Koblin's choice of imagery for his project wasn't the most subtle, but the mind boggles at the sheer possibilities of the site. Crafting has always been a collaborative medium, and it's interesting to see how people seem to be programmed to share their work for seemingly limited rewards. Currently, a Mechanical Turk client is offering users a penny for their thoughts. How often can you say that somebody makes good on that promise? I logged onto MTurk.com and answered a few questions for surveys, as well as responding to the penny for my thoughts guy. I now have three whole cents! I got bored pretty quickly, though, and found a new knitting project instead.
LINK to Salon.com article LINK to MTurk.com