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.


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.


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

Data lab

The ASWG’s Data Lab is a practical and experimental digital work environment for studying the emerging automated society. Our lab makes use of data science methodologies that are informed by research in the social sciences to develop insights into the social, political, and cultural uses of media technology.

We primarily work with data that emerge from digital and networked technologies including social media, digital platforms, wearable devices, smart technologies, and emerging automated services. The digital landscape is an ever-evolving environment with new risks, benefits, and challenges developing with little warning. On almost a daily basis we see changes in web infrastructure, platform design, digital ethics, as well as new regulation concerning data privacy.

The Automated Society Working Group  presents a unique research environment for analysing social issues associated with digital media. Our analytical expertise is supported by data acquisition and analysis tools that allow us to offer ground-breaking and relevant insights into emerging developments. Below are some of the data acquisition tools used by our lab's members.

Our Data Lab offers a range of research training opportunities, including online modules and live seminars, that seek to upskill researcher capacity in contemporary data acquisition, analysis and visualisation practices. We also offer services in data analysis, observation, consulting, and risk assessment from a data ethics perspective. We welcome applications from competitive PhD students.

Please contact us if you are looking to upskill your data practices; collaborate on projects that explore questions related to cultural, social, political and regulatory issues with digital technology; or are interested in studying with us.

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Tweepy   ✔️ ✔️ twitter iconTwitter ✔️
Web Scraper ✔️ ✔️     ✔️
YouTube Data Tools ✔️ ✔️ ✔️  YouTube iconYouTube ✔️