Sunday, September 22, 2013

Economics for skeptical social scientists

I recently gave a talk at the "Training school on Virtual Work," which was held at the University of Malta. The participants were mostly graduate students and junior faculty at European universities studying some aspect of virtual work e.g., Wikipedia editors, gold farmers, Current TV contributors, MTurk workers etc. Most were coming from very different methodological background than my own and the people I usually work with---sociology, anthropology, media studies, gender studies etc. I think it is fair to say that most participants have a fairly dim view of economics.

One of the organizers felt that few participants would have encountered the economic perspective on online work. I was asked to present a kind of non straw man version of economics and present the basic tools for how economists think about labor markets. Below is the result---a kind of apologia for economics, combined with a smattering of basic labor economics. I'm not the best judge obviously, but I think it was reasonably well received.

Economics and Online Work (a slightly misleading title though - see description) from John Horton

PS - I should write more about the school later, but one of the main take-aways for me was how (a) pervasive the acceptance of the labor theory of value was among participants and (b) how this leads to very different conclusions about almost everything that matters with respect to online work. It would be interesting to try to analyze a couple of different online work phenomena using the LTV and the marginalist approach to value.


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