LaborTech Book & Graduate Student Paper, and Social Justice Awards

About Us
LaborTech is an interdisciplinary and transnational group of experts concerned with the intersection of technology and labor. We aim to reframe conversations about technology and labor towards issues of power, inequality, and social justice, and incorporate themes of feminism, anti-racism, and transnationalism. We also seek to foster an interdisciplinary, cross-regional, and community-oriented space for discussion, collaboration, and empowerment. For a deeper discussion of our mission, please see the ‘About Us’ page on our website as well as examples of topics in our decade-long Speaker Series.

Call for Nominations
As part of our mission to promote scholarship and activism towards more equitable forms of labor and technology, LaborTech is announcing a call for three awards — Book, Graduate Student Paper, and Social Justice.  These will honor projects which:
– have distinctive intellectual merit or activist impact;
– advance the knowledge about labor and technology in the global society; and
– address our core focus on labor and technology and which may simultaneously address feminism, anti-racism, and/or transnationalism.

Eligibility Works from all disciplines and methodologies are eligible for nomination. Nominations are open to members and non-members of LaborTech.  We welcome self-nominations especially, but also nominations from publishers, colleagues, and others familiar with the projects.  We encourage submissions from women, people of color, queer communities, and those from the global south.

Prizes Winners receive a small cash award and a certificate (which we hope to expand further in years ahead, as we are still a growing nonprofit organization :).  In addition, we offer our infrastructural supports at LaborTech to promote visibility of your projects:  by connecting with our 400+ expert members; by making a video of winners and distributing it both in and outside of our network to enhance public attention and exposure; and by creating a space and opportunity for sharing your work at out end of year virtual celebration.  Winners will be announced in December. 

Deadline and Contact:  The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2023.  Send questions to  See below for separate criteria and instructions for the various awards.

Book and Graduate Student Paper Awards

Submission Details:
Please submit the following items in English to
1. An electronic version in PDF format (contact us if only print form is available for books)
2. The author’s contact email address
3.  A one-page nomination letter stating the significance and contribution of the work
4.  For Graduate Student Paper, please also include in the cover letter:
a) when the PhD was started and, if applicable, granted
b) if the paper was published, then state when and in what journal
c) if co-authored with faculty/advisors/other PhDs, please include a paragraph attesting to the student’s dominant role in generating the paper (such as working on its theoretical components, doing the research, and writing it up). In addition, we ask that the cover letter is signed (digitally, or otherwise) by all co-authors, so that they are aware of this submission.

Book Award Criteria:
– Monographs only (no edited volumes or anthologies)
– Multiple authors accepted
– Published in the last three years (2021-23)

Graduate Student Paper Award Criteria:
– Written by students currently enrolled in a graduate program or who have graduated in 2023
– Single-authored pieces are preferred, but co-authored pieces will be accepted with the above conditions in Submission Details 
– Papers may be published within the last three years (2021-23) or unpublished
– Page length: 25-40 pages, double-spaced

Social Justice Award 

Submission details:
– Fill out this online form, which includes a few short questions of 400-700 words each, regarding the significance and contribution of your social justice activities
– Please submit all items in English.  If you have a submission in another language, contact us and we’ll attempt to find a translator in our group.

– Those who are interfacing with technology in the course of their organizing, or who are organizing against inequitable technologies, in the context of labor, feminism, anti-racism, transnationalism struggles.  This may include:

  • tech workers
  • labor organizers, whether in unions or other workers’ associations
  • feminist, immigrant, community, and ethnic rights activists
  • scholar-activists.  For this, we are not looking for purely academic work (i.e., scholars who are studying activism), but rather those who are participating in activism themselves, or who are promoting collaborations between activists and scholars.
  • people creating design alternatives for social justice, like engineers and designers 

– Open to individuals, small groups, and if appropriate, organizations

– Focus will be on a particular campaign or project that is done with the aim of social justice regarding labor and/or technology.  These projects may be broad (such as educating the public on a social justice issue) or specific (such as organizing a protest for higher wages).  They may use a variety of strategies (e.g., art, design, social media, marches and strikes, policy interventions, etc.).  We’d like to honor activists who, through these projects, have developed novel approaches or who are pioneers in the fight for more equitable relations of technology and/or labor.

Labor Tech Announces the Winners of Our First

Book and Graduate Student Paper Awards!

*Book Award*

Winner: The Labor Tech Research Network is delighted to announce Ergin Bulut’s A Precarious Game: The Illusion of Dream Jobs in the Video Game Industry as winner of the inaugural LTRN Book Award. The book, published by Cornell University Press analyzes labor in the video game industry from a political economy perspective. The author provides an ethnographic account of the politics of labor and play in a video game company, Desire, where work is racialized, gendered and stratified despite the prevailing imaginary of meritocracy. Bulut adroitly weaves feminist perspectives and critical race theory into study of an environment synonymous with technomasculinity. Through references to the broader economic climate during the research, the book further highlights a rather stark dependence of creative work on corporate financial structures that introduce another layer of precarity in an already complicated industry. Bulut’s work also combines perspectives in media studies, sociology and history of labor, and while it is situated in an American company, the book speaks to how the pleasure of a few privileged workers in companies like Desire is built around the exploitation of others located even as far as the global south. 

Ergin Bulut is a professor in the Department of Media and Visual Arts at Koç University in Istanbul Turkey.

*Honorable Mention*: Latinas on the Line: Invisible Information Workers in Telecommunications by Melissa Villa-Nicholas (Rutgers University Press 2022)
Melissa Villa-Nicholas’ effortlessly shows the intersection of race and gender in a subaltern history of labour and technology. The author’s approach gives voice to workers whose experiences and contributions are easily ignored in mainstream narratives of information work that center white masculinity. She situates the stories of Latina information workers in efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to include people of color in telecommunications. The book connects research areas in History and Media Studies. It is written to preserve the voices of the various workers whose oral histories are combined to create this compelling story that challenges prevailing myths of neutrality in information technology work. The book ends with a fascinating personal account of one of the study’s participants who delineates between structural conditions and individual performance, a tension that continues to exist in neoliberal culture.

Dr. Villa-Nicholas is an assistant professor in the Harrington School of Media and Communication and the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

Graduate Student Paper Award

*Winner*: The Labor Tech Research Network is delighted to announce that Di Wu is the winner of our inaugural Graduate Student Paper Award for her forthcoming paper, “‘We Make AI Smarter, Not the Other Way Around’: Disability Expertise and Artificial Saviorism in AI Data Work in China.” The paper uses ethnographic methods to explore how workers with visual or physical impairments annotate training data for a commercial smart home system. Wu demonstrates how AI companies profit from the skilled labor and expertise of disabled workers, as well as the wider structural ableism in the labor market that excludes these workers from many jobs. In accounting for both structural discrimination and local meaning-making practices, Wu develops the concept of ‘artificial saviorism’ to capture how Chinese tech companies are able to position themselves as engaging in philanthropy when hiring disabled workers, thus obscuring the labor these workers put into making AI systems ‘smart.’ Detailing the disability-informed labor practices of these workers, Wu highlights the potential of disability expertise in creating more just labor conditions. 

The paper strongly speaks to our mission at Labor Tech: not only does the paper draw attention to a context largely understudied by labor and technology scholars in the Global North, but it builds on existing studies of disabled tech workers from several countries, including India, Argentina, and Australia, as well as Indigenous communities in the U.S. Wu also brings in her experience working professionally in disability inclusion programs in China to inform her findings. We offer our sincere congratulations to Di and look forward to seeing what comes next in her promising career.

Di Wu is a PhD Candidate in the History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) Program at MIT.

*Honorable Mention*. The Labor Tech Research Network is also happy to announce that Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya and JS Tan are being awarded an Honorable Mention for their book chapter, “The Role of Workers in AI Ethics and Governance,” which was recently published in The Oxford Handbook of AI Governance. The chapter draws on a decade of AI-related worker activism to develop a typology of AI workers; the criticisms they make of the products they help create; and how they claim jurisdiction over AI governance. The authors also develop a model for explaining how workers report harms related to AI in their workplaces. We believe both the model and the typology will be generative for future research on labor activism in high-tech workplaces in many national and transnational contexts. Please join us in congratulating Nataliya and JS.

Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya is a PhD Student in the Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley and a member of Collective Action in Tech.

JS Tan is a former tech worker, member of Collective Action in Tech, labor organizer, and graduate student with MIT’s Media Lab.

We encourage you to watch this short video of award acceptances in which the authors share why they were inspired to do their research and how it reflects on labor and technology.