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Book Award for The McGannon Center

McGannon Book Award

It gives us great pleasure to announce that Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri is the winner of the McGannon Center book prize for a manuscript published in 2019.

It is common wisdom that artificial intelligence (AI) powers popular networked applications like ridesharing, home assistants, and social media. Gray and Suri’s account in Ghost Work offers an important nuanceto this perception by describing the people and global industrial processes that bring these high tech services to market. They show that most of the celebrated AI-driven consumer products today (think Uber, Amazon’s Echo, or Facebook’s News Feed) significantly depend on underserved on-demand workers from around the world to function as expected. Drawing on extensive interviews and data analytics, Ghost Work demonstrates that technologies like geolocation, online payment systems, and content moderation do not work but for the labor of this large, invisible, and mostly unsupported workforce. Human labor, Gray and Suri illustrate, is essential to fixing glitches and gaps in every new networked application. This work, however, remains obscured by claims from Silicon Valley and their boosters about full automation and the power of AI.

The McGannon Center has awarded the book prize to wonderful manuscripts in the past, including Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, Daniel Solove’s The Future of Reputation, James Boyle’s The Public Domain, Tim Wu’s The Master Switch, Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Googlization of Everything, Christina Dunbar-Hester’s Low Power to the People, and Simone Browne’s Dark Matters.

 Last year, we awarded the book prize to Virginia Eubanks for writing Automating Inequality, an elegant and incisive account of the toll that automated decisionmaking systems have on the most vulnerable recipients of government services. This year, with this award to Ghost Work, we turn our attention to the unsung human laborers that make the newest technologies work as marketed. Ghost Work is the latest in a recent line of research, including Anatomy of an AI System by Kate Crawford & Vladan Joler and Behind the Screen by Sarah Roberts, that chronicles the political economy underlying today’s most popular networked services. The McGannon Center promotes research that uncovers the lived social impacts of communications technologies. We are honored to associate ourselves with Ghost Work through this year’s award. And we are grateful to Gray and Suri for writing it.

Previous Research Award Winners:

2019 – Ghost WorkHow to Stop Silicon Valley From Building a New Global Underclass (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri

2018 – Automating Inequality (St. Martin’s Press) by Virginia Eubanks (University at Albany, SUNY)

2017 – No award given 

2016 – No award given 

2015 – Dark Matters (Duke University Press) by Simone Browne (University of Texas at Austin).

2014 – Low Power to the People (MIT) by Christina Dunbar-Hester (Rutgers, USC) and The War on Learning (MIT) by Elizabeth Losh (William & Mary)

2013 – No award given 

2012- Why Americans Hate the Media: And How it Matters (Princeton University Press) by Jonathan Ladd (Georgetown University).

2011- The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) (University of California Press) by Siva Vaidhyanathan (University of Virginia).

2010- The Death and Life of American Journalism (Nation Books) by Robert McChesney (University of Illinois) and John Nichols; and The Master Switch (Knopf) by Tim Wu (Columbia University).

2009- The Myth of Digital Democracy (Princeton University Press) by Matthew Hindman (Arizona State University).

2008- The Public Domain (Yale University Press) by James Boyle.

2007- The Future of Reputation (Yale University Press) by Daniel J. Solove (George Washington University).

2006- The Wealth of Networks (Yale University Press) by Yochai Benkler (Yale University).

2005- Investigated Reporting(University of Illinois Press) by Chad Raphael (Santa Clara University).

2004- Watching Jim Crow (Duke University Press) by Steven D. Classen (Cal State Fullerton).

2003- Campaigning Online (Oxford University Press) by Bruce Bimber (UC Santa Barbara) and Richard Davis (Brigham Young University).

2002- Media, Markets, and Democracy (Cambridge University Press) by C. Edwin Baker (University of Pennsylvania).

2001- Prometheus Wired (University of Chicago Press) by Darin Barney (University of Ottawa).

2000- Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (Basic Books) by Lawrence Lessig (Stanford University).

1999- Inventing the Internet (MIT Press) by Janet Abbate (University of Maryland).

1998- Privacy on the Line (MIT Press) by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau.

1997- The Gordian Knot: Political Gridlock on the Information Superhighway (MIT Press) by L. McKnight (MIT), W.R. Neuman (University of Pennsylvania), and R. Solomon (MIT).

1996- Selling the Air (University of Chicago Press) by T. Streeter (University of Vermont).

1995- Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy (Pantheon Books) by J. Fallows.

1994- Managing Privacy: Information Technology and Corporate America (University of North Carolina Press) by H. Jeff  Smith (Georgetown University).

1993- “Conclusion” by R.W. McChesney (Wisconsin) in Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935 by R.W. McChesney (Oxford University Press).

1992- “Reconciling Economic and Non-Economic Perspectives on Media Policy: Transcending the ‘Market places of Ideas’” by R. M. Entman & S. S. Wildman (Northwestern) in Journal of Communication (Winter 1992).

1991- “The Periphery in the Center: The Information Age and the ‘Good Life’ in Rural America” by A. Calabrese (University of Colorado) in Gazette: The International Journal of Mass Communication Studies (April 1992).

1990- “The Deregulation of Telecommunications” by R. B. Horwitz (U.C. San Diego) in The Irony of Deregulation Reform by R. B. Horwitz (Oxford University Press).

1989- “Investigative Journalism and the Moral Order” by T. L. Glasser (Stanford University) & J. S. Ettema (Northwestern University) in Critical Studies in Mass Communication (March 1989).

1988- “World Television Trade: The Economic Effects of Privatization and New Technology” by D. Waterman (Indiana University) in Telecommunications Policy (June 1988).

1987- “Newsflow and Democratic Society in an Age of Electronic Media” by D. K. Davis (Southern Illinois University) & J. P. Robinson (University of Maryland) in Public Communication and Behavior Vol.II, edited by G. Comstock (Academic Press).