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Automation as an empty signifier: Interrogating automated work futures and their non-technologies
Malmö University, Data Society. Malmö University, Faculty of Technology and Society (TS), Department of Computer Science and Media Technology (DVMT).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7628-5829
2022 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the role of anticipated futures of automation in public administration. Engaging with ethnographic research with stakeholders from roughly ten municipalities in Sweden, this paper examines the tension between different ways of imagining automated work futures and the extent to which they are associated with (or not) technologies. Automating data-driven processes is believed to alleviate administrative drudgery and support a goal-driven, efficient public sector. Various stakeholders participate in the implementation of automation systems, including corporate actors, managers, politicians, and civil servants. This group of stakeholders has diverse perspectives and expectations regarding the future of work automation and its role in the organisation of public services. Some see automated work processes as a way to boost efficiency, productivity, and precision through algorithmic data processing; others, however, see them as ways to allow professionals to spend less time on repetitive, rule-based, and seemingly tedious tasks, so that they can focus on their core professional practice. Challenging established narratives about work automation, this paper suggests how automation can be used to visualise, think about, and communicate organisational change without involving any technology per se, but rather as an empty signifier to which future-making practices can be affixed and legitimised. By emphasising social expectations and experiences, the paper interrogates emerging automated work futures in ways that move beyond techno-optimism and economic-political goals of efficiency and optimisation, not the least by showing that automation is situated, social and contingent.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2022.
National Category
Media and Communication Technology Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-55884OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-55884DiVA, id: diva2:1709944
Conference
Reframing ADM: Concepts, Values, Alternatives, 29 Aug. - 30 Aug. 2022, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2020-00977Available from: 2022-11-10 Created: 2022-11-10 Last updated: 2022-11-17Bibliographically approved

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Berg, Martin

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf