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Market-Making Algorithms: Insights from a Multi-Year Study of Online Freelancing via Upwork.Com

204 Maxwell and Virtual

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Speaker:  Steve Sawyer

Building from a multi-year panel study of online freelance workers, the focus of this talk is to discuss the ways in which extensive data collection enables online labor platforms to sustain their ‘market-making’ roles. To do this we use as an example of a market-making platform. Working from four examples of the ways in which Upwork uses data from job seekers (freelancers) and job posters (clients), we highlight the importance of algorithms, discuss issues with the opacity of these algorithms, and highlight how freelancers are adapting to the realities of these algorithmic arrangements.  

Steve Sawyer is on the faculty of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. His research focuses on the changing forms of work and organizing enabled through uses of information and communication technologies. This is done through detailed field-based studies of scientific collaborators, software developers, real estate agents, police officers, organizational technologists, and other information-intensive work settings.  He has also been active in advancing sociotechnical approaches to studying computing collectively known as social informatics and emphasizing the sociotechnical basis of digital technologies. Sawyer’s work is published in a range of venues and supported by funds from the National Science Foundation, IBM, Corning, and a number of other public and private sponsors. Prior to returning to Syracuse, Steve was a founding faculty member of the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. He earned his Doctorate from Boston University in 1995.    

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