The Flow of Digital Labor

Eliane Bucher, Christian Fieseler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Digital microwork is a type of labor that many—typically poorly paid—workers engage in. In our research, we focus on an experience-based model of digital labor and the nonmonetary benefits derived from such activities. Based on a survey of 701 workers at Amazon Mechanical Turk, we demonstrate that experiences during digital labor sequences generate flow-like states of immersion. We show that reaching flow-like states while performing microwork depends on certain work characteristics, such as the particular worker’s degree of autonomy, the extent to which a worker’s skills are utilized, and the apparent significance of and feedback derived from the task. The results both highlight the importance of flow-like immersion in explaining why individuals engage in digital labor projects and point to avenues that can lead to the design of better digital work experiences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)1868-1886
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital labor
  • Flow
  • Microwork
  • Task characteristics

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