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The hidden listeners: regulating the line from telephone operators to content moderators

Carmi, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-1108-2075 (2019). The hidden listeners: regulating the line from telephone operators to content moderators. International Journal of Communication, 13, pp. 440-458.


This article examines hidden workers in media technologies and how media companies use them to engineer sociality. It focuses on two types of workers: telephone operators in the early 20th century and contemporary content moderators in social media. This article proposes processed listening as a concept that is better suited to examine their work, especially attending to multiplicities of actors, spaces, and temporalities. Drawing on science and technology studies and sound studies, I examine how processed listening involves the way hidden media workers tune in and out of multilayered mediated spaces to monitor, detect, measure, categorize, and filter unwanted people and behaviors. In doing so, they embody both the communication channel and the filter. They create a feeling of immediacy that is sold as “real-time” experience, while shaping what is sociality. In this way, media companies can avoid being accountable for the decision-making processes involved in the operation of their services.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2019 (Elinor Carmi). Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd). Available at
Publisher Keywords: processed listening, sound, real time, telephone operators, content moderators, Facebook
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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