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How Artifacts Acquire Agency: Towards a Philosophy of Automation

Project description

An innovative method for the study of automation

Automation already determines a wide range of activities in modern life. Automation is considered a technology operating independently from human involvement. The EU-funded HAAA project will propose and develop a new philosophical method for the study of automation by emphasising the large variety of continuous skilful practices on which the related technologies rely. Based on feminist studies of technology, the project will investigate the different types of human influence, review the processes by which these influences are not visible and consider the related ethical concerns. The proposed methodology will be applied to assess the social impacts of automation and used by historical and sociological studies on automation.


The proposed project brings together the applicant, a promising early career researcher (Mark Thomas Young) with a prolific and internationally renowned supervisor (Mark Coeckelbergh), hosted by one of the foremost centers for the philosophy of technology in Europe (University of Vienna). The primary objective is to develop a new philosophical approach to the study of automation that challenges dominant conceptions of automation as technologies that operate without human involvement by highlighting the wide variety of ongoing skillful practices upon which they depend. Drawing on perspectives from feminist studies of technology, the project will (1) identify the different forms of human agency upon which automating technologies depend, (2) explore the processes by which they come to be hidden from view and finally (3) examine the ethical concerns surrounding their erasure. In addition to making a substantial contribution to existing literature on automation in the philosophy of technology, the theoretical approach this project develops will also be useful for historical and sociological studies of technology alongside designers interested in the social impacts of automating technologies. By proposing a novel conception of automation which is useful across disciplines, this research addresses the secondary objective of this project; to establish the project manager as a leading voice in the philosophy of technology and to provide him training and experience that will enable him to attain his long-term career goal of a permanent position in philosophy. In addition to disseminating research results through the production of articles, a journal special issue and the organization of academic events on the theme of automation, this project will also utilize forms of public outreach which are intended to raise public awareness of the human agency underlying automation and the ethical concerns associated with its erasure.


Net EU contribution
€ 186 167,04
1010 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 186 167,04