Crowdwork, digital liminality and the enactment of culturally recognised alternatives to Western precarity: insights from crowdworkers in Nigeria

Elbanna, A. and Idowu, A. (2021) European Journal of Information Systems

Research on crowdwork in developing countries considers it precarious. This reproduces its Western conceptualisation assuming that crowdworkers in developing countries imitate their Western counterparts, without close examination of their experiences and responses to work conditions. This study breaks this epistemological terra nullius to pursue an in-depth examination of workers’ lived experience in a developing country and provide a non-Western perspective. It questions how crowdworkers experience and respond to crowdwork and adopts an inductive approach in examining crowdworkers in Nigeria. Unlike the work precarity thesis, we find that crowdworkers in Nigeria transition and transform crowdwork into long-term employment, drawing on their own cultural heritage, social norms and traditions. Through the lens of the indigenous theory of liminality, we conceptualise crowdwork as liminal digital work and uncover three phases in this transformation process. The study concludes that the agency of workers, their culture and their own context play important roles in their experience of crowdwork. This demonstrates that the in-depth examination of the phenomenon in developing countries could destabilise the dominant knowledge, decoupling it from its origin of production and exposing and examining its implicit and explicit assumptions, and hence advance theorisation.

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