Labor Out of Place: On the Varieties and Valences of (In)visible Labor in Data-Intensive Science

  • Michael J. Scroggins University of California, Los Angeles
  • Irene V. Pasquetto Harvard Kennedy School
Keywords: data-intensive science, invisible labor


We apply the concept of invisible labor, as developed by labor scholars over the last forty years, to data-intensive science. Drawing on a fifteen-year corpus of research into multiple domains of data-intensive science, we use a series of ethnographic vignettes to offer a snapshot of the varieties and valences of labor in data-intensive science. We conceptualize data-intensive science as an evolving field and set of practices and highlight parallels between the labor literature and Science and Technology Studies. Further, we note where data-intensive science intersects and overlaps with broader trends in the 21st century economy. In closing, we argue for further research that takes scientific work and labor as its starting point.

Author Biographies

Michael J. Scroggins, University of California, Los Angeles

Michael J. Scroggins is a postdoctoral researcher at the UCLA Center for Knowledge Infrastructures (CKI), where he works on issues of labor and competition in data-intensive science. Prior to joining the CKI, he completed a dissertation in Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, examining the organization and experimental program of DIYbiologists in Silicon Valley.

Irene V. Pasquetto, Harvard Kennedy School

Irene V. Pasquetto is a scholar in the field of information and communication studies. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), where she researches online disinformation. In Fall 2020, she is an incoming assistant professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan. Before joining the Kennedy School, she was a research assistant at the UCLA Center for Knowledge Infrastructures (CKI), and a research fellow at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics.


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