Amazon's Mechanical Turk is a crowdsourcing website intended for businesses to hire remotely located workers to perform discrete, on-demand tasks. The Sheep Market is a net artwork that tasked thousands of Mechanical Turk workers with drawing a sheep facing to the left in exchange for two cents. The result is a massive database of drawings displayed in a visualization on the project website. Visitors can view animations of the drawing process of each sheep and read placards with data culled from the project such as the average time spent drawing a sheep, number of drawings rejected, and average wage earned by each anonymous worker.
Amazon's Mechanical Turk is a system for harnessing the power of distributed human intelligence. Intended for corporate use, MTurk exploits the notion that certain tasks are simple for people and difficult for computers. The system represents an automated work force in which computer and human processing are intertwined. The individual workers remain alienated from the larger process they are contributing to, aware only of their simple task. This organizational format, typically implemented by corporations, tends to yield highly organized, efficient results for the purposes of targeted economic gain.
The Sheep Market is a web-based art project which appropriates the MTurk system to implicate thousands of workers in the creation of a massive database of drawings. From one simple request, submitted to the MTurk system as a 'HIT' or Human Intelligence Task, workers create their version of 'a sheep facing to the left' using simple drawing tools. The artist responsible for each drawing receives a payment of two cents for their labor.
Within the inspiration for The Sheep Market is the urge to caste a light on the human role of creativity being expressed by workers in the system, while illustrating the massive and insignificant role each plays as part of a whole.