The Automated Society Working Group

The Automated Society Working Group

Could we be replaced by a robot or AI in our workplaces? What might happen if our personal data gets fed into a machine intelligence? Can we even trust the videos that we see of major political leaders?

Automation is increasingly being used in modern society, and brings with it the possibility of all kinds of rich and complex developments. Because computational systems are at play across almost every aspect of society, the potential impact is extremely broad and raises many difficult social and ethical problems. Understanding what problems we have to face is a key part of understanding how we can have an automated society that’s more equitable, more inclusive, and actively advancing social goods.

We use interdisciplinary research approaches to explore aspects of digital automation and subsequent potential complications. We use our knowledge of historical shifts in industry and computing, our knowledge of infrastructure and policy, our technical capacities in digital media research methods, and ethnographic research methods to investigate real experiences of automated systems. We address issues faced by the public and contribute to public debate and policy on the automated society.

Professor Mark Andrejevic has been announced as Chief Investigator for the new ARC Centre of Excellence on Automated Decision Making and Society. This Centre has been awarded a $31.8m grant, led by RMIT, and will help lead the conversation on the intersections between humanity and technology. Read the ARC press release here.

Methodological innovations

Our research assesses both cases and general society-wide developments. We use quantitative research methods including data analytics, data capture and analysis; humanistic and qualitative methods including survey, interview, and case study approaches; and analytical methods built from our research experience, including policy analysis, platform and infrastructure studies, and intercultural communication.


Capabilities

Our research capacities are aligned towards expert strategic analysis, public policy, user-centred design, social distribution of technologies, literacy around technology use, risk and regulation, externalities and consequences from conception to delivery.

We have a number of research snapshots indicating our prior research successes:

  • Big Data and Surveillance – SSHRC (Canada). A $2.5 million grant to study potentials and pitfalls of data driven forms of monitoring and surveillance.
  • Australian Research Council’s QEII Fellowship and Discovery Grant – DP1092606. This $390,000 grant project researched Australians' attitudes toward the collection and use of their personal information online.
  • New Transparency – SSHRC (Canada). A major $1.2 million Collaborative Initiative Grant to build capacity in the study of emerging forms of data collection and data mining.
  • 3D Printing Initiative – ACCAN project. This $100,000 project investigated the risks and barriers involved in 3D printing use by interested Australians.
  • Cycling in Melbourne – AMSI-funded project. $20,500 funding research into socio-cultural aspects of equality in cycling in Melbourne.
  • eSports Australia – Internally-funded project investigating the habits of Australian eSports consumers and producers in the context of a global market.
  • Dark ads and experiences – Category 2 funding being sought for research into Australians’ experiences of automated advertising in their social media feeds.

Contributions

Our team is especially interested in connecting with industry and government groups, particularly those interested in humanistic or user-orient services, or the impact of social services. We are interested in making contributions to public knowledge through submissions to official government bodies and/or reviews at the federal and state level. We have an ambitious plan for publication that we believe will be well received in the international academic community, and seek to bridge conventional disciplinary divides in our work.


Research team