Digital Labor

Marisa Jahn


Marisa Morán Jahn is an artist of Chinese and Ecuadorian descent, immersive media-maker, and the founder of Studio REV-, a non-profit art, media, and social-justice studio that combines sound research and bold ideas to impact the lives of low-wage workers, immigrants, and teens. A graduate of UC Berkeley and MIT, Jahn has received numerous awards and distinctions. She been been a CEC Cultural Ambassador to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Russia, and Russia; received a 2013 Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund, has been a Visiting Artist at MIT’s Media Lab since 2007, and is currently a Research Affiliate at MIT Open Doc Lab. Jahn has presented and exhibited work at venues ranging from The White House, Museum of Modern Art, IDEO NY, the Walker Art Center, MIT Museum, The Power Plant (Toronto), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, ICA Philadelphia, Asian Art Museum, and grassroot venues nationwide. Her work has been featured in media such as The New York Times, BBC, ArtForum, Univision, ArtForum, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boing Boing, Hyperallergic, Creative Time Reports, Make Magazine, Art in America, Discovery Channel, and more.

“The NannyVan” and “Contratados” as Case Studies: Art & Digital Inclusion for Excluded Workers Today
New Deal Labor Laws passed in the 1930s granting most workers basic rights like minimum wage, overtime wage, days of rest, and more. However, seeking to control the African-American workforce, Southern lawmakers intentionally excluded domestic workers and farmworkers from receiving these same rights. Today, the tide is turning! With legal victories protecting domestic workers mount across the U.S., nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers nationwide also pave the path for other excluded workers to follow.

Several recent projects I’ve undertaken as an artist and immersive media maker involve domestic workers and visa-holding migrant workers in creating digital and off-line tools to close a glaring information gap.

Created by Studio REV- (the art, media and social justice non-profit I founded) and the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, The NannyVan is a bright orange mobile design studio and sound lab that accelerates the movement for domestic workers’ rights. With its colorful superhero design, pull-out carts, and and Nanthem (nanny anthem) on blast, Team NannyVan has convened thousands of workers, employers, and allies in creative media workshops that transform individual stories into larger global narratives — while creating tools used in on-the-ground outreach ranging from know-your-rights flyers to the Domestic Worker App accessible by any kind of phone.

Created by Studio REV-, Research Action Design, and Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Contratados is an art, tech, and social justice initiative that seeks to inform the United States’ 90,000 H-2A and H-2B visa-holding migrant workers from Mexico about their rights. The initiative consists of on-the-ground advocacy, a powerful, Yelp-like website where workers map and rank worksites to help their peers avoid fraud, a series of punchy and artfully designed pocket-sized comics and audio novelas (accessible by radio and any kind of phone), and a series of radio shows broadcast on the Radio Bilingue network.

Driving these projects and my research is the question of how we foster an inclusionary digital democracy and inclusionary data society through participatory methods and bold, artistic approaches.