MTurk payment: $0.30
Number responses: 91
Avg time/task: 2:41
Avg MTurk interaction rating: 2.7
I meet him on the internet, he says, let’s cut to the chase and just meet up, and I am all about that. This is my first experiment, I don’t know if the system will technically work well, I don’t know what the worker response will be like, and so I’m pretty nervous. On top of all that, meeting new people is the #1 thing that terrifies me, which is one reason I wanted to do this project and one reason why I felt like I really wanted to vomit on my walk over. Oddly, knowing that the workers are watching me made feel a sense of reassurance, like I’m not all alone in this situation.
At first, my attention is really divided between trying to make sure the camera is well positioned and working, and trying to engage with him. Once I feel everything was set, I start to relax a little and get into the conversation. Very quickly though, he starts talking about his relationship to knives, his transcendent experience of locating, owning and maintaining them, and how it makes him feel powerful, and about his family, and I suddenly feel really guilty. Is it wrong to be exposing this guy like this? I turn the camera toward myself. I remind myself, this is a tool for myself, it’s about monitoring and determining my own interactions. After an hour and a half my phone starts blowing up with messages saying LEAVE, so I do.
The turk test I did was simple, I asked the workers to describe in one sentence what was happening, to rate the interaction, and to choose from a set of actions (stay, leave, say _____, ask _____). Based on the responses, I realized I need to be more specific in the description I ask for. I had set the system to notify me when the average leave response was > 0.75, but I realized it was easiest for workers to choose leave or stay as they didn’t require a fill in the blank. To even things out, I think I will require an explanation for these choices.
MTurk payment: $0.20
Number responses: 31
Avg time/task: 3:37
Avg MTurk interaction rating: 3.5
There is that moment every night, walking alone through the dark in an unfamiliar part of town to some unknown location that I just pray has 4G coverage to meet up with some guy whose name I barely remember, pockets full of devices, where I feel a little scared and wonder what exactly I’m doing and whether I actually am a crazy person. Luckily, there are enough details to distract me. I am starting to get a handle on the logistics of the system. I pause before walking in the door, hit start on my Amazon MTurk batch job, fire up the streaming app, make sure the camera is well-positioned in my purse, reapply lipstick.
I recognize him immediately when I sit down, the kind of guy I would normally walk the other direction from. But I thought, what is this if not a chance to get to know people that I wouldn’t normally? He looks me up and down and orders me a drink without asking what I want. ‘Thank you’, the workers tell me to say. My number #2 reason for doing this project and #2 biggest fear is loss of control. But who is really in control? Me, as the one using this unknowing guy for my project? Him, because I need his participation, because I need him to like me enough to stay and interact? The workers, because they are determining my words and actions? I am spewing random phrases and questions supplied by workers, I sound like an idiot, he doesn’t really seem to notice.
It seems that $0.20 wasn’t enough, I think $0.25 is a sort of cut off when workers are searching for jobs.
MTurk payment: $0.25
Number responses: 60
Avg time/task: 4:03
Avg MTurk interaction rating: 2.6
I had set up the system this evening to check every 5 minutes, average the responses of the workers over that time period, and text me the top voted action. It made me into less of a random, turrets inflicted person, and more like an avatar. I could work the directions into the interaction more naturally.
It starts off with a lot of “back”, “stay” and “sidestep” instructions, and things stay polite and surface. I ask him about his work, his family, his favorite spots in Portland, and I’m starting to run out of small talk topics, when I get the instruction “advance”. I move a little closer to him and he seems to respond. A few “advance”‘s later and we are talking about past relationships. He tells me he asked me out because I had such a high match percentage on the site, and I realize that he’s one of those people that’s really hopeful about finding love through these things. He’s a very nice, earnest guy. He’s not at all my type.
He suggests we leave the bar and walk a little. “Stay” was my last instruction and I say maybe in a bit. Too quickly, another “advance” comes and I say how about that walk. He ignores my apparent indecisiveness and leads me out toward the street. Another “advance” and we are making casual contact. I wonder what to do if I’m pushed further, is this wrong? I think of the times in the past when I have kissed a guy without really thinking or wanting to, and decide at least in this case I have honestly chosen to give up my agency and act based on the decisions of the workers, and in this way I’m not being false. “Advance” and we are kissing. “Back”, thank god, and I am walking home completely unsure of what to feel.
MTurk payment: $0.25
Number responses: 23
Avg time/task: 4:32
Avg MTurk interaction rating: 3.0
I set up my MTurk task as usual, and head to a dive bar for our date. The options are extended further this time, giving the workers more ways to control me. The guy is all over the map and difficult to carry on a conversation with, and I feel relief in knowing I have help and don’t have to handle this on my own. However, I quickly notice that the instructions aren’t coming in with the same frequency as normal. I realize too late that weekend nights require higher pay to attract workers and I hadn’t offered enough to keep them constantly working for me tonight. I suddenly feel very alone. It is just me and him sitting awkwardly in this bar surrounded by people that know each other well, laughing together and carrying on casual conversation. I hadn’t realized how much I had begun to rely on this system for a sense of security and as a guide for my actions and words.
The prompts and directions previously had made the strange setup of online dating feel like a game or performance, but now without them, it just feels sort of sad and pathetic. Is this really the best we can do? I keep the conversation going, but weirdly, now more than ever, it feels like I’m just going through motions and reciting lines. Does he feel the same? Are we all just hoping we’ll stumble across the one that makes us feel more than this? Doesn’t it take a little effort?