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Reason: Most of my informants are disabled persons, they are very sensitive. I want to avoid cause them any possible harm.Although I have avoided recording their information and stories that are not directly related to my research, the document involves their personal information.

Supporting data for "Flickering bodies: Organizing labour amongst disabled data labelling workers in China"

posted on 2022-01-31, 07:10 authored by Dan Huang

Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews conducted in China’s data labelling industry between 2018 and 2020, this thesis provides an account of how disabled workers in the sector are being organized to do data labelling in the digital age. It provides detailed insights into the process of labour and organization, illuminating how the bodies of disabled workers are affected and constituted in the process. A post-phenomenological approach is adopted as a theoretical framework to identify three stages for understanding the dynamic process whereby disabled workers are organized to conduct data labelling labour: disembodiment, re-embodiment, and re-disembodiment. Considering these stages together, this research argues that the “disabled body” presents itself in different ways—sometimes present, while sometimes absent—at different moments. This allows for thinking through why large amounts of disabled workers in China appear to be invisible under the new networked society, where work organization has been transformed due to the prevalence of online work. Disclosing this process also allows us to see how technology colludes with capital to impose double marginalization on disabled workers, thus, this study calls for challenging the able-bodied norm and bringing the physical body back to cyberspace to avoid further marginalization of marginalized groups.

Building on existing theoretical perspectives regarding the embodied nature of human labour, this research identifies three influential notions addressing “labour and the body”: the reified body, docile body and cyborg body. Understanding the limitations of these existing theoretical perspectives lays the appropriate groundwork for this thesis to propose the alternative concept of the “flickering body”, which builds on the work of Katherine Hayles, as a way of combining both the embodied and disembodied dimensions of the labouring body. This concept has the potential to not only describe the phenomena of the body in online labour in China’s data labelling industry, but also to drive forward our understanding of the dynamic nature of the relationship between labour and the body more generally, thereby making a broader contribution to labour studies and the sociology of the body.


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