Made in collaboration with artist Agnieszka Kurant.
Production Line is an ongoing series of drawings whose production is outsourced to thousands of online workers on the crowdsourcing website, Amazon Mechanical Turk. Owned by Amazon.com, Mechanical Turk allows organizations to post simple tasks to a freelance labor pool of 500,000 global workers. These workers, also known as “Turkers,” work from home on small online tasks, usually for a few cents each. Tasks might include: receipt transcription, image captioning, and website testing. For Production Line, however, we asked Turkers to each contribute a single line drawn with a computer mouse. A typical line takes only a few seconds to complete. No Turker could see other Turkers’ contributions or know that he or she was participating in the production of an artwork. After a predefined number of lines was completed, a simple algorithm assembled the hundreds of individual lines into one composite drawing. The result is then outputted to a pen plotter. If the drawing is sold on the art market, the Turkers will also share in the profits via a bonus system. By crowdsourcing art production, Production Line attempts to divert the flow of surplus capital from the art market to online workers. Because each Turker works in isolation, the final drawing’s inchoate composition is emergent and unplanned, questioning whether online labor can cohere into a collectivity.