Topic: Work, Post-Automation: Exploring the Interface between Decision-Making Technologies and the Meaning of Labour
Keywords: automation, robotics, work, labour, technology, augmentation, decision-making
As decision-making and decision-supporting technologies expand in agriculture, what constitutes farm work and how can we better understand its social role? This paper will discuss augmentation of human labour on the farm through new data and algorithm-based technologies. It will bring together insights from political economy, pragmatism, and actor-network theory to consider how labour, as a form of creativity and practical production, is expressed through acts of networking, negotiating, and translating in a changing technical environment. Drawing on interviews with agricultural actors who are implementing new environmental management technologies in New Zealand, as well as preliminary insights from a co-design project developing AI robotics, the paper will consider how technologies bring aggregated data drawn from a collective scale into customized prescriptions for particular farms. The paper will explore the type of labour and politics that emerges as farm managers and workers engage with these customized prescriptions and their abstract, aggregated sources. By placing this process within broader conversations around diversity, deliberation, and democracy, we can also consider what kinds of institutions are necessary to support farm work in the future.