The design of creative crowdwork: From tools for empowerment to platform capitalism (PhD Thesis)

Schmidt's PhD thesis offers a comparison of Amazon Mechanical Turk (2005), the most prominent and infamous example for so-called microtasking or cognitive piecework, with the design of platforms for contest-based creative crowdwork, in particular with Jovoto (2007) and 99designs (2008). The crowdsourcing of design work is organised in decidedly differently ways to other forms of digital labour and the question is why should that be so? What does this tell us about changes in the practice and commissioning of design and what are its effects on design as a profession? However, the thesis is not just about the crowdsourcing of design work: it is also about the design of crowdsourcing as a system. It is about the ethics of these human-made, contingent social systems that are promoted as the future of work. The question underlying the entire thesis is: can crowdsourcing be designed in a way that is fair and sustainable to all stakeholders? The analysis is based on an extensive study of literature from Design Studies, Media and Culture Studies, Business Studies and Human-Computer Interaction, combined with participant observation within several crowdsourcing platforms for design and a series of interviews with different stakeholders.

Schmidt, F.A. (2015), The Design of creative crowdwork: From tools for empowerment to platform capitalism (PhD Thesis), Royal College of Art, London.


  • Research publication, Case study-worker
  • Other
  • Yes
  • professional services
  • Online moderately skilled click work, Online contestant specialist work
  • Jovoto, 99Designs, Amazon Mechanical Turk
  • work organisation, motivation for platform work, tasks
  • English
  • Royal College of Art, London (Research institute)
  • Qualitative research
  • 2015
  • Open access
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