There is a need to generate research that nuances our understanding of the situated socio-cultural and economic complexities of the digital work environment from the perspective of workers in the Global South. To this end, our project seeks to understand the conditions that draw workers to online freelance work along with the economic, social and moral dimensions of digital labor in the Philippines. Drawing from life story narratives and with an ethnographic spirit, the different research strands led by Newton Tech4Dev members foreground their work from observed practices and on-the-ground realities from multiple interviews with the workers, industry drivers, and platform intermediaries, as well as visits to their work environments and participant observations in online and co-working spaces.
Through interviews and digital ethnography of so-called “troll armies”, political operators, and fake news producers, this project aims to contribute a unique production studies approach to existing research on digital disinformation. Examining the production of digital disinformation as publicly derided but financially rewarding digital labor in the Philippines, we aim to shed light on the challenges, compromises and complicities that have taken online workers to the “digital underground”.