JS Tan Named a 2023 MIT Prize for Open Data Winner

When one thinks about tech workers one is often locked into modern media portrayals of tech startups and giants: a blend of work/play environments that provide plentiful amenities to attract and retain the best minds in tech. One only needs to visit Kendal Square to view the various tech offices to get a sense of these work environments that have been designed to be pleasurable for their employees. But this veneer obfuscates challenges for workers in the tech industry, who often must navigate unfair treatment and expectations as well as ethical dilemmas associated with the products they develop.

Collective Action in Tech, a collaborative and crowdsourced database, documents employee activism in the tech sector. It seeks to provide insights on organizing in the tech sector and to contribute to research efforts on white-collar labor organizing in the new knowledge economy.   JS Tan and his partner in developing this database, Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya, use insights drawn from this work to analyze systemic challenges in labor organizing in the tech industry. This work has also led to broader collaborations with tech workers and organizers to develop resources for advancing tech labor organizing. “I started this database when I was a tech worker and wanted to understand how other workers in the industry were organizing. From a research perspective, it’s become a useful resource for understanding the broader arc of labor organizing in the tech sector,” said Tan, a doctoral student at DUSP and former tech worker.

Tan’s research focuses on the political economy of innovation, industrial policy and platform economies. He is a member of the Political Economy Lab at DUSP, which provides an intellectual space for conducting interdisciplinary research that considers the role of power & institutions in ordering social & economic life. Tans’ work documenting employee activism in the tech sector won a 2023 MIT Prize for Open Data.

The MIT Prize for Open Data is presented by the MIT School of Science and the MIT Libraries and seeks to highlight the value of open data at MIT and to encourage the next generation of researchers. Winners are selected across all five schools, the college, and several research centers across MIT.