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Representation of risks and responsibility in the automation debate (MARA)

Hosting organisations
Institute for Comparative Media and Communication Studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Alpen-Adria-University and Uni Wien - Institut für Philosophie
Responsible persons
Florian Saurwein and Joanina Loh

The rapid diffusion of algorithms, robots and artificial intelligence is accompanied by public debates about applications and opportunities as well as emerging risks such as the loss of jobs, manipulation, security threats and violations of privacy. This raises questions regarding responsibility for damage and problematic impacts of automation. So far, responsibility is not clearly assigned in all contexts of automation, and frequently it is passed on to users or technologies, such as artificial intelligence.

Media reporting on risks and responsibilities plays a central role in shaping public perception and opinion on automation. The proposed project will therefore investigate media coverage of risks and responsibilities on automation. The analyses will investigate which fields of automation (e.g. autonomous driving, curing robots, internet algorithms, etc.) and which risks of automation (jobs, security, surveillance, etc.) are subject to media reporting. It will also investigate which actors (industry, state, users, technologies, etc.) are held responsible for any damage and the development of solutions, and what types of responsibilities (moral, legal, economic, political) are attributed within the discourse.

The project develops an innovative research approach based on a responsibility concept from the philosophy of technology combined with (semi-)automated empirical content analyses of media reporting on automation. Hence, the project answers traditional responsibility questions in the humanities and social sciences by means of new and innovative methods from the digital humanities.