Encountering automation: Redefining bodies through stories of technological change

This article enhances our understanding of the thoroughly embodied nature of knowledge production in relation to automation by demonstrating how making sense of automation is a generative process, rather than the demystification of an already existing object of analysis. It argues that the process of knowing automation involves situated encounters that transform bodies at the level of their indeterminate capacities to affect and be affected which, in turn, contributes to the production of what automation is. Contrasting with more generalised diagnoses about how automation is deskilling or reskilling bodies, it evaluates the constitutive role of situated encounters that register in sensing bodies for reshaping capacities. Focusing on iron ore mining in Australia, an industry sector that is currently increasing its automated operations, the paper draws on a series of fieldwork encounters with people differently positioned in the mining sector. Through the presentation of five stories that incorporate combinations of these fieldwork encounters, the paper constructs a more complex picture of how automation is redefining different bodies. Rather than taken to be mere representations of automation, it argues that the listening to and telling of stories about automation is a form of encounter that redefines bodies in the process.

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Volume 39 Issue 2

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