NSF Workshop

May 31 – June 1, 2019
University of Michigan, Detroit & Ann Arbor

Silvia Lindtner, Cindy Lin, Shaowen Bardzell, Jeffrey Bardzell, Paul Dourish

The workshop brings together those who experiment with new forms of tech work outside the large corporate and university laboratories and those with experience in studying the economic, social, and political processes of tech work, labor, and industries. An underlying goal of this workshop is to work through alternatives and openings for solidarity in a neoliberal moment that is often broadly perceived as granting “no alternatives” to contemporary capitalist processes. We aim to identify opportunities and challenges at various scales of intervention from writing software code to engaging with policy makers, from local interventions to translocal collaborations, from one-time off events to sustained and long-term activities.

Nasma Ahmed (Digital Justice Lab)
Sareeta Amrute (University of Washington)
Olayami Dabls (Bead Museum, Detroit)
Alessandro Delfanti (University of Toronto)
Jill Diamond (Sassafras)
Bart Eddy (Brightmoor Makerspace)
Nathan Ensmenger (Indiana University)
Mary Gray (Microsoft Research)
Victoria Hattam (New School)
Mikaiil Hussain (United Taxi Workers San Diego)
Lilly Irani (UCSD)
Maggie Jack (Cornell University)
Noopur Raval (UC Irvine)
Juno Salazar Parreñas (Ohio State University)
Tawana Petty (Detroit Community Technology Project, Data Justice)
Nadya Peek (University of Washington)
Rachel Rosenbaum (Civilla, Detroit)
Adam Selzer (Civilla, Detroit)
Mitali Thakor (Wesleyan University)
Cara Wallis (Texas A&M University)
Julia Yezbick (Film Maker, Artist, Anthropologist, Detroit)
Peter Zschiesche (Employee Rights Center, San Diego)

University of Michigan Participants:
Tawanna Dillahunt
Jean Hardy
Julie Hui
Anna Watkins Fisher
Patricia Garcia
Sarah Murray
Rebekah Modrak
Lisa Nakamura
Damani Partridge
Casey Pierce
Cengiz Salman
Christian Sandvig
Nick Tobier

More details:
The rise of unemployment and unstable, precarious work conditions sit in deep tension with growing bureaucratic and corporate interests in automating work across sectors. The question of who defines and understands the risks, impact, and benefits of this rapidly changing socio-technological landscape remains an open question. Scholars, policy makers, politicians, and media have responded with sharp critiques of digital labor platforms such as Uber and Amazon Mechanical Turk as they have furthered precarious conditions of work and life for minorities rather than brought about equal opportunity. Maker and tech entrepreneurship advocates, on the other hand, argue that the problem of future of work can be “solved” by encouraging people to become self-reliant, develop an entrepreneurial mindset, and make their own tools, instruments, and machines. While such ideals of regaining control via technological ingenuity might mask continuous violence against those deemed unfit to self-upgrade, their critiques have been met with suspicion. While techno-optimistic approaches are challenged for their naïveté, their critics are seen as incapable to produce alternatives in practice. This workshop invites participants to join us for two days of engaged debates, talks, and design sessions aimed at moving beyond naive techno-solutionism on the one hand and familiar critiques of an ever further expanding and all consuming capitalism on the other. What alternatives are possible in an age of “no alternative”? Do we have to reconsider what counts as intervention into existing structures and conditions of work and labor in order to challenge persistent inequalities and exclusions? How can perspectives from policy, economics, information technology, critical race studies, and feminist studies form a robust and committed scholarship to “making the ‘future of work’ work”?