Invisible Threads – A Virtual Sweatshop

Stephanie Rothenberg & Jeff Crouse

3 November 2008

Mixed media installation

Mixed media installation: Internet (Second Life), video. Project support: Eyebeam, New York; Sundance Film Festival; SUNY Buffalo 2020 Scholars Fund. Large format printer courtesy of Epson

Invisible Threads allows visitors to order designer jeans on-demand through a sweatshop in Second Life. customers go to a retail kiosk, place their orders, watch how their jeans are made virtually on the factory and how they are output back into the real world via a large format printer in the gallery space. The worker-avatars operating the machines are people sitting at computers around the world and profits made from the jeans sales go towards workers’ salaries and operating costs of the factory. Invisible Threads demonstrates both the promise and problematic aspects of a global workforce increasingly engaging in remote virtual labour.