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Accepted Paper:

AI nightmares in platforms everyday work life: anthropological interventions in shared visions of dystopian futures  
Debora Lanzeni (Monash University)

Paper short abstract:

Academics often characterise the rise of platform work through dystopian future visions shaped by government, consultancy and industry agendas. This paper draws on interdisciplinary ethnography to analyse how such visions are implicated in the lives of platform workers with AI.

Paper long abstract:

Academics often associate the rise of platform work with dark visions of the future shaped by the various agendas of governments, consultancies, industry and unions. These visions play an important role in how workers deal with the organisation of their everyday working lives and how they interact with the AI technologies that are part of their experiences of work. We show how such future visions permeate the possibilities of progress and change which platform workers imagine in their own technological and work practices. This ranges from their strategies to monetize their work practices to how they organise their own online communities. Our research has found that their future visions are dominated by existing narratives which predict dystopian scenarios cemented by unchangeable bonds of power and enabled through AI. These narratives have an enormous impact on how workers interact with organisations and how they perceive themselves as collective actors.

To develop this we draw on interdisciplinary ethnographic research, between anthropology and communications studies, about platform workers’ digital learning. We outline workers’ perceptions, actions and fears, and argue that these should be the terrain of intervention of critical anthropology. In doing so we argue for a new methodology for possible interventions that anthropologists working interdisciplinary could make against the reification of certain images of capitalism above others.

Panel P01c
AI and interdisciplinary Futures Anthropology
  Session 1 Wednesday 8 June, 2022, -