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Accepted Paper:

Pedagogies of abstraction: learning, coding and outsourcing in Cluj  
Oana Mateescu (Babes-Bolyai University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores two Romanian sites - an informal coding school and a start-up of front-end programming automation - as pedagogical levers for the recalibration of abstraction, dwelling on the uneven cognitive formatting of humans and machines in an outsourcing-based coding economy.

Paper long abstract:

Dreaming of becoming the East European Silicon Valley, Cluj-Napoca (Romania) hosts a growing IT industry that thrives as an outsourcing market in constant need of cheap labor. Information technology, the engine of local creative economies, has become key to personal as well as urban development. This paper explores two IT sites in Cluj for the paradoxes they reveal about contemporary concatenations between knowledge, technology and economy: an informal school offering IT classes geared towards professional reconversion and a start-up working in the area of front-end programming automation. In the first case, participants drawn in by the compelling mirage of well-paid IT jobs strive to become initiated in the basics of algorithmic thinking and computer programming. In the second, developers and tech visionaries aim to provide a “mental exoskeleton” for creative workers in the shape of an AI powered, collaborative platform for the design of user interfaces. I study these contexts in an ethnomethodological vein, but I analyze them through the lens of Marx’s Fragment on Machines (arguing implicitly for the need to consider both ethnomethodological and Marxist roots of STS). Invested with famous optimism in the postoperaismo tradition as well as in recent proposals of postcapitalism and accelerationism, the Fragment has provoked much debate about the shape of value, but less so about the shape and distribution of knowledge as abstraction. Approaching these two cases as pedagogical levers for the recalibration of abstraction allows me dwell on the uneven cognitive formatting of humans and machines in an outsourcing-based coding economy.

Panel P23a
Programming anthropology: coding and culture in the age of AI
  Session 1 Friday 10 June, 2022, -