AutoVisit to AnTec 2021

November 4th and 5th Håkon and Jens visited Aarhus and the Anthropology of Technology (AntTec) conference. Here we gave two presentations, one on the relation between technologic and presence, and one on a certain tendency observed among skilled workers in technological workplaces: “Paper-free building sites” has been introduced to achieve efficiency, where builders work straight form the digital models. However, we observe builders sometimes breaking the rules by secretly using paper drawings after all. “you see, I need to draw the corrections on the paper when what I build deviate from the original plan.” The drawings provide a “dialogical space” where builders can negotiate according to their professional judgement, something the digital models not always accommodate for. 

Based on fieldwork at construction sites and in offshore shipping, our presentation explored how the notion of craftsmanship and seamanship, and the professional dialogue transforms as organizations and work are organized as digital machines, enhancing some perspectives while excluding others. In a broader perspective, the digital organization was seen to resemble a machine, that ideally should be able to work without human intervention. Crafts- and seamanship increasingly include adjusting to, and mending “the machine”, even breaking rules to have it work – all to get the job done.

During the visit, we also, we discovered that Aarhus is a really nice city with fantastic restaurants.

Workshop | Exploring caring imaginaries: Futures of roboticized healthcare

The world’s population is ageing – and robots are increasingly portrayed in care roles in fiction.

What will the roboticized future of health care look like?

In this online workshop, we will explore how medical and care robots are imagined in fiction, and reflect on the opportunities, inspiration, fear and trouble it can imply for human societies. What boundaries are there for robotic care? Which possibilities exist, or can be opened up in the future?

Workshop participants will work together on discussing grand societal issues of the care sector at a time of technological transformation.

Are you fascinated by robots in fiction? Are you interested in healthcare technology and curious about the new horizons opened by robotics in the care setting?

Agenda:

  • 9:30 – Welcome by Chair Sofia Moratti, NTNU
  • 9:35 – Keynote talks by experts Ingvil Hellstrand, UiS & Roger A. Søraa, NTNU
  • 10:15 – Brainwriting
  • 10:30 – Coffe Break
  • 10:45 – Ideation: Debate and experience-sharing
  • 11:45 – Coffe Break
  • 12:00 – Discussion: Pathways for caring imaginaries
  • 12:30 – End of workshop

We look forward to welcoming you to this workshop!

-Registration form HERE –

Hosted by: Robotics4EUCaring Futures & the Nordic Journal of STS.

Onto-Epistemological Boundaries of Craftspeople and their Tools

Last weekend, Dr. Roger Andre Søraa (NTNU) presented a paper on the “Onto-Epistemological Boundaries of Craftspeople and their Tools” at Human-Machine Partnerships in the Future of Work Exploring the Role of Emerging Technologies in Future Workplaces, a virtually held workshop CSCW2021 on the 23rd of October, 2021. Below is a summary of the talk:

Together with Kristoffer Nergård and As.Prof. Håkon Fyhn, Søraa and his team are looking at the practical side of robotics. The researchers have been quite curious about the people who build buildings – eg. craftspeople that do a lot of strenuous lifting and have to check that the buildings are made correctly. 


The researchers were also curious if any technologies such as robotics are being used to help make this work easier. The researchers are studying new technologies for the building sector. They question what type of social materials boundaries can be considered technology tools, what is viewed as a robot, and how these technologies construct the modern craft person and impact their knowledge as a professional worker.

When technologies such as robots are moving into the construction site, that changes the site. In their techno-anthropological & Science and Technology Studies (STS) approach, the researchers wanted to go and talk to craft people directly to see what they thought about these new co-workers of theirs.

Søraa gave a very simple example as a first technology, the hammer, which is humanity’s oldest tool for building, from about 30,000 BCE. 

There are a lot of innovations in the hammer it has been used such as a jackhammer, war hammer, and the hammer we know from our homes. Humans are being identified as tool-making/using- species, and even chimpanzees have made/used hammers. 

Also, Søraa pointed out that craftspeople’s clothes have specific pockets to carry hammers around. However, learning to use a hammer requires a lot of training, especially since the hammer is not an autonomous technology. 


Therefore, Søraa concludes that the hammer shapes the hammer as a tool that shapes society and society. 

They are moving from that to a more advanced technology, robots, it’s important to consider why these robots are implemented into craftspeople’s work – for efficiency or safety? And how does it affect the acceptance of these robots?

Now we are at a very interesting point in time; we see a lot of robotics moving to the Norwegian construction site. For example, the Boston Dynamics Robot spot has been used in Norwegian building sites. 


The researchers wanted to know if robots were seen as a tool or co-workers for craft people? Do they fall into uncanny valleys? Or do people not trust them? Or are people scared of them? The researchers wanted to examine posthuman categorizations of the non-human. Or was it seen as an “other” being on the construction site?

There is quite a lot happening on the construction sites, also in the digital realm. Many building information modelings are being used in the Norwegian construction sector, such as BIM models, which create digital twins of buildings. You have a digital version of the buildings that are being made. Then you have the physical structure that is also being made. And a lot of craft people either work outside in the harsh weather, or they have some colleagues sitting inside and making them inside the nice warm offices. There are some potential conflicts between these two types of workers. Then you have a new type of worker, the robot, that moves around often in the night and checks if the buildings are built correctly or if any errors need some discipline. 

Søraa and his team are quite curious about the autonomy and power between the workers inside the offices, the workers outside that in the construction site, also the robots that move around between them. Above are the examples of craftspeople that they are looking at. The craftsperson below cutting a specific cupboard to fit the BIM model has told him what to do. The machine actually is doing the cutting work and tells him what to do, and he is just putting it there to be made correctly. 


Robots and craftspeople both work in the boundary between the physical building and the digital models – creating new forms of craftsmanship, so it is not wielding the hammers and hammering the nails anymore. It is quite complex nowadays.

For example, Søraa and his team see the posthuman worker for the future of work with machines provides epistemic challenges for what a craftsperson should be and what a craft person should know. And it is a matter of cultural, social, and organizational factors that affect the future of work where the new technologies can also lead to the deskilling of work. So it is not only about becoming an expert in using robots, but it can also be the robots taking some of your work away from you and being deskilled to do effortless work. 

Although it is essential to be situated area, the Nordic context, Søraa sees that the craftsmen and workers they have been studying conceptualize work as more than a means to survive; it is also a career. Whether machines replace humans, they find themselves working alongside them or working within machine systems. The researchers see that automation and robotics in the construction site radically transform what it means to be working in the construction sector.

How can future work-life provide a meaningful and secure place for human workers? 

We cannot just replace workers with robots. 


Lastly, Søraa situated it in the Nordic work model, where Norway has worker unions, business organizations, and government actors coming together regularly and sitting down and discussing what we should do to change the sector what it needs to remain. And right now the researchers see that Norway has a new actor in the model, the robots in the three-part model, although the collaboration is a bit unsure. 

The working/crafting human conceptualizes work as more than a means to survive.

The researchers conceptualize this as “Craftsperson 2.0”, where we have the future of work, automation, skills and craft, robots, digitalization, building information modeling (BIM), altogether creating what is being a craftsperson, which is not the same as what it was yesterday.

A question that came up was about the role of unions. Norway as a Nordic country has a union rate of about 50 percent. Sweden is about 67 percent, Finland has a similarly high amount at 60, and Iceland has almost all workers unionized. Although it is quite different from North America, where it is much more contested, it is not mandatory here in Norway but quite normal to be in a union. The supervisor often recommends you join the union, and they are probably also in the same union. Søraa thinks it helps in security in moving forward together, but we see many worker issues in terms of projects are being picked up by the lower bid, for example, and the building mistakes are being made.

Call for Sales and Services workers in Australia

MUHREC Project ID: 29432

Project title: AUTOWORK

AUTOWORK: Workers in transition through automation, digitalisation and robotisation of work

Sales and Services

The AUTOWORK project investigates how digital and automated technologies impact on workers, their work practices and the meaning they give to work. Automation refers to the use of robots and other technologies to minimise human involvement in the delivery of goods and services, while digitalisation refers to the ways in which digital technologies mediate the delivery of these goods and services. The main goals of the project are to learn about and provide solutions to societal changes arising from the automation and digitalisation of work-life. There have been bold predictions about the impacts of automation and digitalization; however, little research has engaged with the experiences and opinions of workers themselves.

Participation will be in the form of a personal interview, which will require you to give 45-60 minutes of your time, which will be recorded with a digital voice recorder.

Participant incentives: As a small token of our appreciation for your time and insights, you will receive a $20 dollar Coles Group & Myer Gift Card for taking part in the interview. This will be presented at the interview completion.

Who can participate? If you work in a sales and service sector job and your work is affected by digital and automated technologies, we want to speak to you. You must be over 18 years of age. You can find out more about the project on our website: https://autoworkproject.org/. Please feel free to spread the word.

Research team: The project is a collaboration between the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Monash University. This part of the research, examining digitalisation and automation in the retail and service sector, is conducted by researchers in the School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University. For further information and if you’d like to participate contact:

Dr Ari Jerrems

School of Media, Film and Journalism

email: ari.jerrems@monash.edu

Dr Aneta Podkalicka                                                                
School of Media, Film and Journalism                                       
Phone: 3 9903 4624   

email: aneta.podkalicka@monash.edu  

Professor Mark Andrejevic

School of Media, Film and Journalism                                                         

email: mark.andrejevic@monash.edu

Picture postcard greetings

During the summer of 2021 I did a fieldwork among carpenters in a small refurbishment company in Trondheim, Norway. It was exciting to learn by working with these fun guys! I am currently in the first stage of my PhD research project where I am trying to understand more about skills and culture among craftspeople in Norway.

The next stage will be to do fieldwork in a larger, more technologically complex construction company in Norway, and I will study construction workers who work alongside robots

Greetings from Kristoffer in Trondheim

Digitalization book published!

AUTOWORK researcher Dr. Roger A. Søraa has just published a new book on Digitalization, together with colleague Dr. Kristine Ask at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The book features a chapter on the automation of work, and is a good introduction to understand how work is impacted by digital practices, and how technologies change the notion of work.

Chapter on automation of work

The book can be found in your local academic bookshop:

Book in bookstore

It can also be bought directly from the publisher here, and you can also have a sneak-peak here, or watch this video:

Video introduction (in Norwegian)

The book is currently only available in Norwegian, but you can sign up for info on the books upcoming English version here.

Kick-off for the AUTOWORK project (during a pandemic)

In kicking-off the AUTOWORK project, we have great expectations for what the project will bring to research on the automation, digitalization and robotization of work.

Although we had planned for a physical meeting in Trondheim, Norway, global realities of course made that impossible. Shifting to a digital solution was interesting in itself given the topic of this project: Would this digitalization of our work make it more efficient? Would the lack of informal interactions during coffee breaks or meals be detrimental? We found, surprisingly perhaps, that we could get to know each other well in the digital realm, even as we look forward to meeting face-to-face. But, most importantly, we discovered an enthusiasm for this project, and a wealth of knowledge that all partners already possessed, that was almost impossible to contain to eight hours of of video conferencing. We also discussed how COVID, which dictated the digitalisation of our own kick-off meeting, is accelerating the automation and digitalization of work, especially in the sale and service sector, in ways both visible and invisible, making out research more timely than ever.

The AUTOWORK project consists of project leader NTNU Social Research and four departments at NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology:

  • Department of Social Anthropology
  • Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture
  • Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Science
  • Department of Sociology and Political Science
  • Department of Computer Science

With us digitally were partners from Monash University, in Melbourne in Australia. Participating from Monash are:

  • School of Media, Film and Journalism
  • Emerging Technologies Research Lab

Norway and Australia can seem remote from the rest of the world, at the northern and southern reaches of the globe. The restrictions on travel can make that isolation feel larger, while the digital meetings can make those distances seem to collapse. We look forward to sharing with the rest of the world insights we can glean about the future of work.