Automating the crowd

Who is the real Mechanical Turk?

Learn more Application closed Add to Calendar 01/22/2019 10:00 AM 01/22/2019 05:00 PM Europe/London Automating the crowd Location of the event
Tuesday 22 Jan 2019
Time: 10:00 - 17:00

Event type


Audience type



The relationship between automation and human work is a longstanding area of concern and reflection, and raises questions around public policy and across disciplinary boundaries. The use of ‘crowdsourced’ efforts and the increasing diversity of contributors in human-machine interactions presents particular challenges. Together these raise complex questions that have technical, social and ethical implications.

Automating the crowd is a one day workshop which will bring together participants from neuroscience, digital humanities, sociology, health and other disciplines to shape the public debate around these challenges


About the event

    The collaborative workshop focuses on four topics as a frame for discussion:

    • Locating the real Mechanical Turk
    • Collaboration or competition?
    • Community factors and motivation
    • Digital literacy and fair inclusion

    Automating the crowd will create a space for dialogue and enquiry about the relationship between automation and human work, which we hope will act as an incubator for future collaborations across disciplines and professions. Participants will be encouraged to share their own ideas and will be invited to engage with and shape proposals from the organisers about new writing projects and networks.

    The workshop aims to reflect on how human work can be hidden within apparently automated systems in a discussion of ‘Who is the real Mechanical Turk?’ It will also focus on the importance of human ‘microwork’ in the development of automated systems, for instance in considering the case of crowdsourced health research and its role in informing the development of machine learning systems.

    During the workshop, participants will consider questions about how and why people come to be involved in the development and use of automated systems and how their involvement is shaped by social, political and economic factors associated with digital literacy and community engagement.

    After the workshop, we will host a public event, Real people behind artificial intelligence. This panel-led debate will focus on opening up and addressing questions about whose work underpins automation, whether this is work at all, and if so what kind? It will be a lively and multidisciplinary conversation, with as much audience participation as possible.


    Dr Ernst Hafen

    Professor of Systems Genetics, Institute of Molecular Systems Biology

    Professor David Leslie

    Director of Ethics and Responsible Innovation Research at The Alan Turing Institute and Professor of Ethics, Technology and Society, Queen Mary University of London


    Dr Ann Borda

    Senior Research Fellow, Health and Biomedical Informatics Centre, University of Melbourne


    The Alan Turing Institute

    1st floor of the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB

    51.5297753, -0.12665390000006