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The Automative Imagination

Authors: Sam Kinsley*, University of Exeter
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: automation, digital geographies, imagination, robots, technology, work
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Automation is both a contemporary and enduring concern. Some warn of the ‘rise of the robots’ sweeping away whole sectors of employment while others suggest preparing for ‘fully automated luxury’. This paper explores how automation is imagined as much as it is planned and enacted. There are various kinds of cultural, economic and social forms of imagination that are drawn upon and generated when discussing how automation works and the kinds of future that may come as a result. My aim is not to validate/invalidate particular narratives of automation. Rather, I investigate how automation is envisioned and how stories are told about what it means to be ‘human’, who/what has agency and what this may mean for how we think politically and spatially. To do this the concept of an ‘automative imagination’ is proposed as a way to articulating these different habits of considering and discussing automation. Grappling with the precedence of envisioned over actually existing technology, ‘the automative imagination’ articulates the double-bind between fantasies of automation and path dependencies within the ongoing automation of many aspects of life.

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