Who assembles the ‘future of work’? Mapping actors and discourses in U.S. American web debates on job automation

When: Saturday, 19 June 2021, 9:30 am. Where: online at the conference "Dis/Entangling Technoscience. Vulnerability, Responsibility and Justice"

Paul Dunshirn, pre-doc at the Research Platform Governance of Digital Practices and research fellow at MARIPOLDATA, will participate in the VIII STS Italia Conference "Dis/Entangling Technoscience. Vulnerability, Responsibility and Justice", and present the methodology of his master thesis in a panel on 'Mapping technoscience in the media', taking place on Saturday, 19 June 2021 at 9:30 am.


“Who assembles the ‘future of work’? Mapping actors and discourses in U.S. American web debates on job automation”

Scholars from the field of science and technology studies (STS) tend to criticize public debate about the ‘future of work’ for being overly sensationalist, deterministic or unrealistically utopian/dystopian. While this critique may be accurate in certain cases, the aim of this thesis is to investigate how decisive these sensationalist discourses actually are within the overall public debate on automation in the United States. For that purpose, I conduct an inductive ‘mapping’ of these debates, concentrating on concrete actors (such as news outlets, public institutions, or private companies) that formulate sensationalist and other types of discourses in relation to the issue of job automation. This issue mapping exercise is based on a self-collected data set of more than 1800 webpages, connected through more than 2400 hyperlinks. Methodologically, it relies on a combination of social network analysis (SNA) and qualitative close-reading of linking practices and webpage contents. As this analysis reveals, public web debates about automation are not centrally driven by sensationalist discourses. Instead, debates are shaped by a variety of discourses on automation (some more and some less polarized), and organized in terms of social relations amongst institutions or clusters around concrete sub-issues.

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