Uppsala Informatics and Media Hub for Digital Existence: Vision

Automated digital media technologies and infrastructures increasingly pervade our entire existence. Mapping itself onto diverse realms of human life and experience—in the shape of autonomous vehicles, autonomous weapon systems, algorithmic filtering of online search, harassment, political boosterism, biometric wearable devices that track us daily, domestic and social circuits, embedded systems and embodied artefacts (robots)—AI is here and now, at our fingertips. These developments implicate us all: we are already living with automation. They also activate some of the chief critical questions of the humanities: what it means to be ‘human’ in a technological age; the fate of human culture, society and value, and the existential vulnerabilities, social injustices and ethical imperatives raised by increased automation of the human lifeworld.

To engage these major technological, social, cultural – and in effect existential –transformations, the Uppsala Informatics and Media Hub for Digital Existence, hosted by the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala university, envisions to be a nucleus for a human sciences approach to AI and autonomous systems. The Hub seeks to offer possibilities for scholars to jointly articulate and address a mounting number of pressing existential and ethical questions, with deep humanistic knowledge—both theoretical and empirical—by drawing on the richest relevant intersections in the human sciences:  media studies, information systems, HCI, philosophy, artistic scholarship, interaction design, education, comparative literature, history, digital anthropology, software studies, critical data studies, digital religion, the philosophy of technology and others. Through its outreach activities the Hub also sets out with the ambition to work in close dialogue with society, stakeholders, AI engineers, policy makers and investors.

Work within the Hub  addresses three fundamental themes: the specific ethos of automation including its historical backgrounds, its futuristic imaginaries, and their anticipatory pay-outs in present-day analysis; the experiential range of encounters with these technologies with an eye to both possibilities for creative playfulness, responsive acts on technology, contingencies, vulnerabilities and social injustices; and, finally, the pressing ethical imperatives it poses for networked humanity, including governments, entrepreneurs, engineers and ordinary media users.

Ongoing research initiatives include the following areas:

  • The histories, imaginaries, narratives and ideologies of datafication and dataism
  • Anticipatory media
  • Biometrics, the body and the ‘person’
  • Paradigms for ethical AI
  • Automation, social (in)justice and diversity
  • Pre-emptive policing
  • Automation and playful design fictions
  • AI for Earth
  • Automation and disability
  • The transcendence industries (legacy avatars, automated farewell messaging and griefbots)
  • The ethics of emergent technology and design
  • The future of mobility
  • Internet of things