Tracing the Human in Amazon Mechanical Turk through Rhetorical Text Mining
Dr. Jeremy Tirrell, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Dr. Nathaniel Rivers, St. Louis University
This study uses text mining to examine how the language of posts on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online global crowdsource marketplace, rhetorically articulates a model of the human that emerges from concrete labor acts rather than abstract ethical capacities. The study analyzes 23,105 documents using multiple operations including weighted frequency counts, clusters and topic models, and frequency co-occurrence and n-gram maps at three grain sizes: the whole corpus; posts organized into five tiers based on compensation level; specific productive terms. Findings identify coherent human aspects that collapse distinctions between bodily and intellectual capabilities, yet the separation between humans and non-humans is indistinct, because MTurk posts repeatedly redraw such boundaries, causing characteristic traits to be variably shared.