WTO colloquia bring in outside speakers to present recent research of interest to the greater Stanford community engaged in organizational research. Talks are held on Mondays from 12:00-1:15pm and lunch is served. Further details about each colloquium, including the title of the talk, an abstract and the colloquium’s location are distributed via email prior to each event.

We are honored to host these speakers during the 2014-2015 academic year:

Winter 2015

Jan 12, 2015
Yuqing (Ching) Ren, University of Minnesota
Title: The Significance of Task Significance in Online Marketplaces for Work
Abstract: Online marketplaces for work like Amazon Mechanical Turk serve as new platforms to source mundane yet important tasks such as analyzing medical images and generating expert standards for machine learning algorithms. While these platforms provide a fast and cost effective way of getting work done, low payment and the lack of face-to-face contact make it difficult for job requesters to motivate and monitor workers. In this paper, we explore task significance as a new approach to motivate workers and improve work quality by informing them of the purpose of the task and who benefits from it. We conducted a laboratory experiment and a field experiment using Amazon Mechanical Turk in which participants performed spell checking tasks to fix errors in either Wikipedia articles or digitized books for underprivileged people. Task significance improved work quality in both experiments, but only when the information properly registered with the worker. A majority of participants who received the purpose statement ignored it, shedding light on the challenge of using task significance to motivate workers in an online context. Further analysis showed newly registered workers, workers with more than minimal household income, or workers with certain personality traits such as agreeableness were more likely to register the purpose statement than others. Compared to task significance, increasing monetary payment by 50% did not improve work quality. Overall, our findings highlight the promise as well as the challenge of using task significance as a way to motivate online crowds and the complex interactions among various types of motivations in online labor markets.

Jan 26, 2015
Ofer Sharone, MIT
Title: TBD
Abstract: TDB

Feb 2, 2015 (co-sponsored with SCANCOR)
Kate Kellogg, MIT
Title: TBD
Abstract: TDB

Feb 9, 2015
Anita Woolley, Carnegie Mellon
Title: TBD
Abstract: TDB

Fall 2014

Oct 27, 2014
Benjamin Shestakofsky, UC Berkeley
Title: The Labor of Markets: Inventing, Reproducing, and Transforming an Online Marketplace
Abstract: Research in economic sociology has revealed how market makers devise pragmatic solutions to universal market problems, developing rules and collective understandings to facilitate transactions. Emergent markets must attract buyers and sellers, establish procedures for matching them, foster trust between them, help participants learn rules and norms, and sustain market participants’ confidence in the exchange. Yet when it comes to the burgeoning field of online marketplaces, we know surprisingly little about the processes through which the market institutions that structure exchange are invented, sustained, and transformed. In this paper, I draw on 19 months of participant-observation research at a company that administers an online marketplace. I describe how the firm organizes labor to solve market problems, demonstrating the role of architectural work, artificial intelligence, and emotional labor in securing the trust and ongoing participation of buyers and sellers.

Nov 3, 2014
Jenna Burrell, UC Berkeley (School of Information)
Title: On the Importance of Price Information to Farmers and Economists
Abstract: The notion that farmers use mobile phones to acquire market price information has become a kind of shorthand for the potential of this technology to empower rural, low-income populations in the Global South. In this talk, I will touch upon some recent projects I’ve undertake with collaborators Janaki Srinivasan and Elisa Oreglia that interrogate and complicate this simple formulation. This work considers the translation of ‘market prices’ from neoclassical economic model, to development policy truism, to application in technological system building. Yet, the technological systems that often result, called market information systems or MIS, frequently fail to gain users or affect prices or profits in the ways that have been promised. Our ethnographic work among fishers in Kerala, India, on Lake Victoria in Uganda, and farmers in Northern rural China surfaces counter-narratives about mobile phones (and market price) that could explain why.

Nov 17, 2014
Ed Walker, UCLA
Title: Media Activism, Discursive Opportunities, and Social Movement Policy Impact: How ‘Gasland’ Reshaped the Politics of Fracking in the U.S., 2010-2013
Abstract: Recent scholarship highlights the importance of public discourse for the mobilization and impact of social movements, but neglects how cultural products may shift discourse and thereby influence mobilization and political outcomes. This study investigates how activism against hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) utilized cultural artifacts to influence public perceptions and effect change. A systematic analysis of Internet search data, social media postings, and newspaper articles allows us to identify how the documentary Gasland reshaped public discourse. We find that Gasland contributed not only to greater online searching about fracking, but also to increased social media chatter and also to heightened mass media coverage. We also find that local screenings of Gasland contributed to anti-fracking mobilizations, which, in turn, affected the passage of local fracking moratoria in the Marcellus Shale states. These results bear implications not only for understanding movement outcomes, but also for theory and research on media, environment, and the politics of energy.

For information on past colloquia, click here.