"I've had the experience I think every nerd hopes for in pursuing a doctorate - of sitting around a table discussing ideas with other grads, of spending an entire year just reading, of getting great feedback and encouragement from a superstar supervisory committee, and coming out of all of that with a completely new approach to critically examining the world."

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Student Profile: Véronique Sioufi

February 25, 2022
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Geography doctoral student in the Faculty of Environment

I'm a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography with an interest in the futures of work and organizing. My current research examines the labour geographies of 'microwork', the hidden and underpaid ‘human intelligence’ work behind artificial intelligence algorithms.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I was looking for a program that could connect the different threads of my interests in the data economy, digital labour, and worker organizing. Dr. Kendra Strauss had been my external advisor for my MA in Communication and introduced me to the field of Labour Geography. I'm so thankful she took me on in this field, because now I can't imagine approaching this research through anything other than a spatial lens.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

I think most of us know about data being collected through our digital devices and that algorithms do all sorts of things with this data, like customize our news feeds or place targeted advertising. What a lot of people don’t realize is that process depends on hidden human labour: people train machine learning algorithms through the collection, cleaning, and processing of that data in work that is broken down into small sets of easily outsourced tasks for pennies per click, or what is commonly referred to as ‘microwork’. Using a crowdsourcing model, this work puts people in different parts of the world in competition with one another in a ‘race to the bottom’. It also evades local labour laws by relying on ideas of the internet as being nowhere in particular. These workers don’t have a lot of recourse for justice, but they are fighting back in ways both big and small - and this is what I study.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I've had the experience I think every nerd hopes for in pursuing a doctorate - of sitting around a table discussing ideas with other grads, of spending an entire year just reading, of getting great feedback and encouragement from a superstar supervisory committee (Kendra Strauss, Geoff Mann, and Jim Thatcher), and coming out of all of that with a completely new approach to critically examining the world.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I am able to pursue this degree because I received the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship. I am so grateful for this funding and the incredible support it offers through my pursuits.

 

Contact : vemondsi@sfu.ca