The governance of crowdsourcing: Rationalities of the new exploitation

Drawing from literatures in business, the burgeoning field of human computation, and media studies together with economic geography and social theory, this paper contextualises corporate crowdsourcing in regimes of work and specifies and examines the rationalities governing this early 21st century round of exploitation. I refer to “rationalities” in the Foucauldian sense as the calculated ways by which mentalities become inscribed in a regime of practices, in this case, new practices of work. I present crowdsourcing as the means by which the regime of labor is governed in novel systems of production regarding open innovation as well as non-innovative yet skilled microtasks. I engage firm rationalities of decentralisation, which have developed differently for innovative and non-innovative activity; wageless work; JIT labor (distinct from JIT production); precarisation; informalisation; fungibility; and invisibility. In the penultimate section, I draw from Foucault’s conceptualisation of human capital to address rationalities of self-governance among workers, a crucial issue because it is the crowd’s willingness to accept as little as nothing that fuels the new exploitation, an insidiously efficient governmentality. I question an assumed homogenised subjectivity among the “cybertariat,” and conclude with thoughts about critical ingredients for a new, virtual frontier of resistance strategies.

Ettlinger, N. (2016), 'The governance of crowdsourcing: Rationalities of the new exploitation,' Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 48(11), pp. 2162-2180.


  • Research publication
  • Other
  • Yes
  • no specific sector focus
  • income, skills and employability, social protection, tasks
  • English
  • Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space (Publisher)
  • Qualitative research
  • 2016
  • Subscription
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