[SIGCIS-Members] Documentation of AOL in mid-1990s

Avery Dame-Griff avery.dame at gmail.com
Wed Sep 11 13:13:39 PDT 2019


I am! It's been quite helpful in getting a sense of CL labor, mindset,
expectations, etc. Unfortunately, there's far less available on enforcement
in practice (some copies of training materials, etc), and very little prior
to the Trobee case, which the period I'm most interested in. So, hopefully
something of that nature might turn up.

Thanks again for the suggestions!


On Wed, Sep 11, 2019 at 1:01 PM Roberts, Sarah <sarah.roberts at ucla.edu>

> Are you familiar with Hector Postigo’s work in this area?
> https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1367877909337858
> This article continues previous work that analysed the case of America
> Online (AOL) volunteers from critical perspectives of immaterial and free
> labor, and incorporates newly acquired documents and interviews by the
> United States Department of Labor (DOL) with volunteers. Specifically, this
> article puts forth the AOL volunteers’ case as an instance of co-production
> that eventually met its demise when organizational changes resulted in the
> rise of a labor consciousness among some volunteers that made the ongoing
> relationship impossible. This article shows the types of co-productive
> labor that took place during the height of the AOL/volunteer relationship
> and the structures put in place to help AOL harness the power of a free
> distributed workforce. The research posits that the success of the
> co-productive relationship was a function of a balance between a numbers of
> elements: (1) the perceived reasonable compensation on the part of
> volunteers, (2) social factors and attitudes towards work such as a sense
> of community, creativity, and (3) a sense of accomplishment.
> And the earlier:
> https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-review-of-social-history/article/emerging-sources-of-labor-on-the-internet-the-case-of-america-online-volunteers/56D287B6007BCF167FC254EF4ED166CF
> In 1995 AOL announced that it would be converting its pricing plan from an
> hourly rate that ranged from $3 to $6 an hour to a flat monthly rate of
> $15.95. The increase in member subscription was expected to be significant,
> and a wave of concern swept through the large remote-staff volunteer
> population, whose duties included monitoring electronic bulletin boards,
> hosting chat-rooms, enforcing the Terms of Service agreement (TOS), guiding
> AOL users through the online community, and even creating content using the
> AOL's own program, RAINMAN (Remote Automated Information Manager), the text
> scripting language and the publishing tool that allows remote staffers to
> update and change content on AOL. Chief among remote-staff volunteer's
> concerns was the initiative to convert many of the volunteer accounts from
> overhead accounts, which had access to tools and privileges that made
> remote-staff volunteers' duties on par with in-house employees, to unbilled
> or discounted accounts. In a meeting meant to address the emerging concerns
> of remote-staff volunteers held over electronic chat, Bob Marean, a
> representative for AOL, confronted over 450 remote-staff volunteers.
> —Sarah
> S a r a h  T.  R o b e r t s,  P h. D.
> Assistant Professor
> Co-Director, UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry
> University of California, Los Angeles
> Department of Information Studies
> Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
> https://is.gseis.ucla.edu/
> Behind the Screen (Yale University Press)
> https://www.behindthescreen-book.com/
> **Please note: I’m increasingly finding email unmanageable. If I don’t
> respond and your issue is urgent, please resend and indicate that in the
> subject line. Your message likely just got lost in the shuffle. Thanks.
> On Sep 11, 2019, at 12:45, Avery Dame-Griff <avery.dame at gmail.com> wrote:
>   All,
> I've had limited locating these on my own, so I wonder if anyone has any
> suggestions: Are there archives (official or community-based) of documents
> related to America Online, especially during its mid-1990s boom? I'm
> especially interested in two things: A) Guides/Community Leaders'
> day-to-day practices around policing offensive content and B) AOL's
> relationship to independent community-oriented content providers (including
> compensation rates, contracts, etc.).
> Some documentation of Guide practices and policies exists, but there's
> almost nothing about the latter - it's my suspicion most users didn't even
> know some forums were run by independent contractors.
> Thanks in advance,
> Avery Dame-Griff
> --
> Avery Dame-Griff
> Lecturer, Communication Studies/Women and Gender Studies (Spring 2020)
> Gonzaga University
> Curator, Queer Digital History Project <http://queerdigital.com/>
> averydame.net <http://www.averydame.net/>
> avery.dame at gmail.com
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Avery Dame-Griff
Lecturer, Communication Studies/Women and Gender Studies (Spring 2020)
Gonzaga University
Curator, Queer Digital History Project <http://queerdigital.com/>
averydame.net <http://www.averydame.net/>
avery.dame at gmail.com
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