Women’s Work is (Screen) Saved shares written reflections on balancing work, life, and motherhood by women workers on Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk digital working platform in December 2020. Presented as a screensaver, the work transforms the sentiments collected from 100 women into a set of virtual postcards. Women wrote how their lives were profoundly changed, and the screensaver images illustrate the variety of effects the pandemic has had on women around the globe including physical changes, anxiety, and grief. Reflecting on her grandchildren, one worker wrote, “You can’t hug through Zoom.” This work re-imagines collected texts from women workers—ghosts in the machine—into virtual postcards for viewing as a screensaver on those screens we can’t hug through at the ubiquitous pandemic worksite: the home office.
This work illuminates the bodies of digital workers in a corpus of text. It presents fragments of women’s writings culled from a body of collected text as a set of digital images. These images, rendered as digital postcards, activate the workers’ voices only when the computer, that is, the machine-proxy for the body of the digital worker, is at rest. It is no accident that this work is on display while the machine (perhaps akin to the rest of the family body?) is at rest. Their reflections about the work-life-motherhood-marathon illustrate a description familiar to many caregivers who quarantined and continued to work the double-shift throughout the pandemic.
While many of the texts included in the screensaver explicitly refer to the body—about gaining or losing weight, hugging, touching, or crying—all of them talk about corporeal experiences relatable to anyone who quarantined during the global pandemic. This project visualizes concrete moments stored in bodies from the recent past to create space for bodies of the future, whether they are virtual, textual, or corporeal. As one worker writes: “It’s like our bodies are holding on to it because we were inside for so long.”
Directed by xtine burrough (USA)