PRESS RELEASE: The Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR) and Weizenbaum Institute launch the Data Worker’s Inquiry repository and talk series.

The Data Workers’ Inquiry is a community-based research project in which data workers from all over the world conduct individual inquiries. From reports and animations to powerful documentaries and zines, the Data Workers‘ Inquiry repository presents a multifaceted view of the realities confronted by data workers, ranging from psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, to resistance strategies and efforts to unionize. We will have a virtual launch event on July 8th, with a panel by workers Mophat Okinyi, Richard Mathenge, and Krystal Kauffman, moderated by DAIR Founder Timnit Gebru, and introduced by project lead Milagros Miceli. You can register here to attend. 

About the Data Workers’ Inquiry

The data workers who are tasked with the labor-intensive and emotionally taxing work of data labeling, content moderation, and other forms of data processing that enable AI systems to function, are often located in the Global Majority, precariously employed, and politically dispersed. The Data Workers’ Inquiry provides a platform for them to conduct their own research and describe issues in their own words. 

This community-based research project has brought together 15 data workers from Kenya, Venezuela, Syria, Lebanon, and Germany, and diverse employment contexts, including various outsourcing companies and platforms. The data workers develop unique research questions, design and conduct their inquiries, and prepare a presentation format for their findings. 

One of the data workers, Bothwokwa Ranta, describes her engagement as a community researcher and the process of creating a zine about African women in content moderation: “It was not easy. I share a sisterhood with some of the women I wrote about, which was key for them to trust me with their stories. Having been depressed and in a dark place myself, working on this project has been a tough yet important step in my healing process.” Roukaya Al Hammada, a Syrian data worker living under refugee status in Lebanon, says, “As a co-researcher in the Data Workers‘ Inquiry, I conducted a series of interviews with my data labeling team to delve deeper into the experiences of other refugee data workers, exploring the psychological toll of the work and our specific vulnerabilities related to being refugees.”

“When we designed this research project, it was important for us to create a safe space for data workers to conduct research that matters to them,” says Milagros Miceli, head of the project. “We center their experiences and recognize their unique knowledge. We are proactive supporters, but the epistemic authority remains with the workers.” DAIR’s founder Timnit Gebru adds, “this is a really important project for DAIR because it is an example of supporting workers in telling their own stories and coming up with new insights and better research outputs in the process.”

The data workers have produced a compelling array of creative outputs that illuminate the human toll of data work. The project repository is a valuable resource for researchers, journalists, and policymakers seeking first-hand accounts of data work, as well as for other data workers looking to learn about shared struggles and resistance strategies.

“We hope for the Data Workers’ Inquiry to be a catalyst for change. The findings are an urgent call to confront labor inequities and exploitative practices. And by fostering worker solidarity and amplifying collective demands, the project aims to help create meaningful, systemic change in the industry,” says researcher Adio Dinika.

The launch event will take place online on Monday, July 8th, 8:00 AM PT / 11:00 AM EST / 5 PM CET. Registration: 

More information: 


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