Digital Sociology Podcast Episode 23: Elinor Carmi, content moderators, telephone operators and politics of "listening"
In this episode I am talking to Elinor Carmi who is a Postdoc Research Associate in Digital Culture & Society at the University of Liverpool. She tells me about how her experience of working in radio and music production and as a feminist has influenced her current analysis of digital media work. In particular we discuss her comparison and analysis of early 20th century telephone operators and contemporary online content moderators. Elinor suggests that there are similarities between the ways in which (usually female) telephone operators were not only responsible for connecting calls but for maintaining the smooth front end experience for callers. One of the key tasks required of them was to distinguish between "message" and "noise" and remove the latter. Content moderators have to make similar distinctions in with online content by removing violent, sexual and other content which doesn't fit with the values which the platform wishes to present. The power of this analysis is made stark through the example of how Facebook considers male nipples to be "message" and female nipples "noise".
You can follow Elinor on Twitter
You can read Elinor's article 'The Hidden Listeners: Regulating the Line from Telephone Operators to Content Moderators' in the International Journal of Communication
Elinor's article 'Cookies – More than Meets the Eye' in the journal Theory, Culture & Society