Reversed Solutionism. The Two Sided Control of Crowdwork


Platform labour is a new phenomenon that brings new forms of labour control with it. The article looks at crowdwork and analyses the various types of control inherent in this phenomenon. It is argued that crowdwork is not controlled by technological instruments alone, such as algorithms. Indeed, the method of organising labour is a complementary control element. Analytically, a technological and an organisational fix can be distinguished. Their specific characteristics are empirically investigated on the basis of crowdwork platforms covering the entire spectrum of qualifications. The result is that already existing asymmetries between capital and labour are intensified by the interaction between the technological and the organisational fix.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v12i3p640

Keywords: Crowdwork; Organisation; Platform Labour; Technology; Workplace Control


Agre, P.E. (1994), “Surveillance and capture: Two models of privacy“, The Information Society, 10(2): 101–127.

Ahrne, G., P. Aspers, N. Brunsson (2015), “The Organization of Markets“, Organization Studies, 36(1): 7–27.

Aneesh, A. (2009), “Global Labor: Algocratic Modes of Organization“, Sociological Theory, 27(4): 347–370.

Beer D. (2013), Popular culture and new media: The politics of circulation, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Belina, B. (2011), “Kapitalistische Raumproduktionen und ökonomische Krise“, Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, 55(1-2): 239–252.

Bergvall-Kåreborn, B., D. Howcroft (2014), “Amazon Mechanical Turk and the commodification of labour“, New Technology, Work and Employment, 29(3): 213–223.

Bonin H., U. Rinne (2017), Omnibusbefragung zur Verbesserung der Datenlage neuer Beschäftigungsformen: IZA Research Report No. 80.

Botsman R. (2015), The changing rules of trust in the digital age. Available at: (Accessed: 1 May 2019).

Braverman H. (1974), Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century, New York: Monthly Review Press.

Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände (2015), Seize the opportunities of digitisation: BDA position on the digitisation of business and the working world. Retrieved May 5, 2019 (

Burawoy, M. (1998), “The Extended Case Method“, Sociological Theory, 16(1): 4–33.

Crang M., I. Cook (2007), Doing ethnographies, Los Angeles: Sage.

Drury H.B. (1915), Scientific Management. A History and Criticism, New York: Columbia University.

Edwards R. (1979), Contested terrain: The transformation of the workplace in the twentieth century, New York: Basic Books.

Elliott, C.S., G. Long (2016), “Manufacturing rate busters: computer control and social relations in the labour process“, Work, Employment and Society, 30(1): 135–151.

Erickson, K., I. Sørensen (2016), “Regulating the Sharing Economy: Introduction to the Special Issue“, Internet Policy Review, 5(2).

Felstiner, A. (2011), “Working the Crowd: Employment and Labor Law in the Crowdsourcing Industry“, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 32(1).

Fligstein, N. (1996), “Markets as Politics: A Political-Cultural Approach to Market Institutions“, American Sociological Review, 61(4): 656-673.

Frade, C., I. Darmon (2005), “New modes of business organization and precarious employment: towards the recommodification of labour? “ Journal of European Social Policy, 15(2), pp. 107–121.

Friedman, A. (1977), “Responsible Autonomy Versus Direct Control Over the Labour Process“, Capital & Class, 1(1): 43–57.

Glaser B.G., A. L. Strauss (1967), The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research, Chicago: Aldine.

Graham, M., I. Hjorth, V. Lehdonvirta (2017), “Digital labour and development: impacts of global digital labour platforms and the gig economy on worker livelihoods“, Transfer (Brussels, Belgium), 23(2): 135–162.

Harvey D. (1982), The limits to capital, London: Verso.

Harvey D. (2001), Spaces of capital: Towards a critical geography, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Heiland, H. (2018), “Algorithmus = Logik + Kontrolle: Algorithmisches Management und die Kontrolle der einfachen Arbeit“, in Houben, D. and Prietl, B. (eds.) Datengesellschaft: Einsichten in die Datafizierung des Sozialen, Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 233–252.

Hill S. (2015), New Economy, New Social Contract: A plan for a safety net in a multiemployer world, Washington.

Hine C. (2000), Virtual Ethnography, London: Sage.

Howcroft, D., B. Bergvall-Kåreborn (2018) “A Typology of Crowdwork Platforms“, Work, Employment and Society, 33(1): 21–38.

Howe, J. (2006), “The Rise of Crowdsourcing“, Wired Magazine, 14(6), pp. 1–4. Available at:

Howe J. (2008), Crowdsourcing: How the power of the crowd is driving the future of business, New York: Crown Business.

Huws U., N. H. Spencer, S. Joyce (2016), Crowd Work In Europe: Preliminary results from a survey in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

Huws, U., S. Dahlmann (2009), “Global Restructuring of Value Chains and Class Issues“, Interventions économiques, (39): 1-21.

Irani, L. (2015), “Difference and Dependence among Digital Workers: The Case of Amazon Mechanical Turk“, South Atlantic Quarterly, 114(1): 225–234.

Jarrahi M.H., W. Sutherland (2018), Algorithmic Management and Algorithmic Competencies: Understanding and Appropriating Algorithms in Gig work. Conference Paper.

Kuckartz U. (2016), Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Methoden, Praxis, Computerunterstützung, Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.

Lasecki, W.S., C. Homan, J.P. Bigham (2014), “Architecting Real-Time Crowd-Powered Systems“, Human Computation, 1(1): 67–93.

Lee, M.K., D. Kusbit, E. Metsky, L. Dabbish (2015), “Working with Machines: The Impact of Algorithmic and Data-Driven Management on Human Workers“, The 33rd Annual ACM Conference, Seoul, Republic of Korea: 1603–1612.

Lehdonvirta, V. (2016), “Algorithms that Divide and Unite: Delocalisation, Identity and Collective Action in ‘Microwork’“, in Flecker, J. (ed.) Space, Place and Global Digital Work. London: Palgrave Macmillan: 53–80.

Lehdonvirta V. (2017), The online gig economy grew 26% over the past year. Available at: (Accessed: 5 May 2019).

Lehdonvirta V., M. Ernkvist (2011), Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy: Converting the Virtual Economy into Development Potential. Washington.

Leimeister, J.M., M. Huber, U. Bretschneider, H. Krcmar (2009), “Leveraging Crowdsourcing: Activation-Supporting Components for IT-Based Ideas Competition“, Journal of Management Information Systems, 26(1): 197–224.

Luhmann N. (1988), Die Wirtschaft der Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Malone, T.W., R.J. Laubacher, T. Johns (2011), “The Big Idea: The Age of Hyperspecialization“, Harvard Business Review, 89(7/8): 56–65.

Möhlmann M., L. Zalmanson (2017), Hands on the wheel: Navigating algorithmic management and Uber drivers’ autonomy. Conference Paper.

Morozov, E. (2013), “The Perils of Perfection“, New York Times, 2 March, SR1. Retrieved May 5, 2019 (

Morozov E. (2014), To save everything, click here: The folly of technological solutionism, New York, NY: Public Affairs.

Muehlberger, U. (2005), “Hierarchies, Relational Contracts and New Forms of Outsourcing“, SSRN Electronic Journal.

Neff G. (2012), Venture labor: Work and the burden of risk in innovative industries. (Acting with technology), Cambridge: MIT Press.

Parkin, S. (2017), “Observant participation with people who inject drugs in street-based settings: reflections on a method used during applied ethnographic research“, Addiction Research & Theory, 25(1): 39–47.

Polanyi K. (1944), The Great Transformation, New York: Farrar & Rinehart.

Saunders, B., J. Sim, T. Kingstone, S. Baker, J. Waterfield, B. Bartlam, H. Burroughs, C. Jinks (2018), “Saturation in qualitative research: exploring its conceptualization and operationalization“, Quality & Quantity, 52(4): 1893–1907.

Schörpf, P., J. Flecker, A. Schönauer, H. Eichmann (2017), “Triangular love-hate: management and control in creative crowdworking“, New Technology, Work and Employment, 32(1): 43–58.

Schumpeter J.A. (1942), Capitalism, socialism and democracy, New York: Harper & Brothers.

Silver B.J. (2003), Forces of Labor: Workers’ movements and globalization since 1870. (Cambridge studies in comparative politics), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sohn-Rethel A. (1970), Geistige und körperliche Arbeit. Zur Theorie der gesellschaftlichen Synthesis, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Taylor F.W. (1911), The Principles of Scientific Management, New York & London: Harper & Brothers.

Thiel P. (2014), Competition Is for Losers. Retrieved May 5, 2019 (

Trompette P., V. Chanal, C. Pelissier (2008), Crowdsourcing as a way to access external knowledge for innovation: Control, incentive and coordination in hybrid forms of innovation.

Wacquant L. (2006), Body & Soul: Notebooks of an apprentice Boxer, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wissen, M., M. Naumann (2008), “Die Dialektik von räumlicher Angleichung und Differenzierung: Zum uneven-development-Konzept in der radical geography“, ACME, 7(3): 377–406.

Wright, E.O. (2000), “Working-Class Power, Capitalist-Class Interests, and Class Compromise”, American Journal of Sociology, 105(4): 957–1002.

Zhao, Y., Q. Zhu (2014), “Evaluation on crowdsourcing research: Current status and future direction”, Information Systems Frontiers, 16(3): 417–434.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.