The ghostworker’s well-being: An integrative framework

The GHOSTWORK project studies the well-being of ghost workers in Europe. Ghost workers are mostly invisible workers who carry out online tasks such as cleaning data or classifying images. The functioning of artificial intelligence depends on this type of human work. This on-demand work is offered and performed online, paid by the task, on platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk.

This rapidly growing, platform-based work is largely unseen: workers are unable to speak with managers, do not get feedback, and lack labour protections. How do these specific work conditions influence ghost workers’ well-being? To ensure decent work conditions as automation continues to expand, knowledge about the effects of ghost work on well-being is urgently needed.

The project will develop and test an integrative framework for analysing the effects of ghost work on worker’s well-being. Existing models for analysing the impact of work conditions on well-being fall short for studying ghost work, as these models assume a person has a job and most likely an employer and colleagues. Therefore, this project begins from the specificities of ghost work to synthesize theories and concepts about algorithmic control, occupational well-being, human computation, and platform labour, in order to understand how and through which mechanisms ghost work influences well-being.

The research is funded by an ERC Consolidator grant.