Workshop: Work, Labor, and Automation

On January 23, Data & Society will host a workshop in NYC on the intersection of technology and work/labor. The purpose of the D&S Workshop series is to enable deep dives with a broad community of interdisciplinary researchers into topics at the core of Data & Society’s concerns.

The structure of a D&S Workshop is designed to maximize scholarly thinking about the evolving and societally important issues surrounding data-driven technologies. Participants will be asked to read three full papers in advance of the event and prepare comments for intensive discussion. Some participants will be asked to be discussants of papers, where they will lead the conversation and engage the room. Authors will not present their work, but rather participate in critical discussion with the assembled group about the paper, with explicit intent of making the work stronger and more interdisciplinary.

This workshop is full. Participation in this event is limited. Those who are interested in participating should apply by November 1.

Work, Labor, and Automation

Most public discussions about labor and new technologies are framed through an economic lens, focusing on job loss due to automation. However, the hybrid developments of automation, algorithms, and digital information and communications technologies in the world of work are more complex. Technologies in the work context can produce efficiencies for employers but often exacerbate the vulnerability of low-income workers. There is a need to understand the uneven effects of these technologies across industries and a broad diversity of workers. Through this workshop, we hope to expand our collective thinking, and engage a cohort of researchers debating similar questions. Relevant topics for this workshop might include:

  • What does the history of automation tell us about the present?
  • How do labor platforms alter the experience of work?
  • Can we build tools to minimize bias in hiring?
  • What are the legal ramifications of new surveillance technologies in the workplace?
  • How does scheduling software reconfigure families and communities?
  • How do new tools magnify or redress longstanding inequities in labor?

Participation requirements

All participants are required to read three papers in advance of the event and come ready to offer constructively critical feedback. We want researchers from different intellectual traditions to spar with and challenge one another to strengthen ourselves across the board. This is not an event for passive attendance, but an opportunity to engage each other substantively and from cross-disciplinary perspectives.

If you participate in this event and are not an author, you may be asked to be a discussant.

A subset of participants will workshop papers they have written. This is a fantastic venue for workshopping a paper. If you have an appropriate paper in progress, you are strongly encouraged to submit it for consideration. Drafts of law review papers, journal articles, conference papers, and book chapters are all welcome. Papers are expected to be at draft stage with room for improvement; the goal of this event is not to present largely finished work but to truly workshop work in progress.

For this event, we are looking to bring together researchers from diverse disciplines ranging from computer science to law, economics to history, and anthropology to media studies. As a result, attendees should expect to engage with scholars who are outside of their field.

We ask that attendees think of the D&S Workshop series as an opportunity to engage with a field, and to strengthen both relationships and research through participation in the workshop. While we see this as valuable for individual authors, we also see this as a field-building exercise that we hope will be valuable for all involved.


The day will be organized into three time slots, each 75 minutes long. One paper will be workshopped in each session. Multiple sessions will run in parallel so there will be a total of 9-12 papers, but each participant will only be responsible for 3. Within each group, a discussant will open with a critique of the paper before inviting participants to share their feedback. (If you participate in this event, you may be asked to be a discussant on one paper.) All are expected to share feedback, with author response towards the end of the session.


The event will take place on January 23, 2017, and will run from 8:45am to 6pm. Paper sessions will run until 4pm; afterwards, there will be a reception for all participants.

There is limited travel support for our out-of-town guests. If you are in need of travel support, please let us know. We will not be able to accommodate all travel needs so if you have grants or other means of covering your participation, please use that so that we can prioritize funding for those who have none.

Application to participate

If you are interested in attending this Workshop, you may either 1) propose a paper to be workshopped; or 2) describe how your research makes you a relevant discussant/participant.

By November 1, please send a note to [email protected] with the following information:

  1. Name, affiliation, email address, discipline.
  2. Either a 1-page (max) abstract of a paper or a 1-page (max) description of your work and relevance to the event. Please be explicit if you are submitting a paper.
  3. Let us know if you will need travel assistance in order to attend. We will unfortunately not be able to accommodate everyone’s needs.


Application Deadline: November 1, 2016
Selection Decisions: November 8, 2016
Full Paper Deadline: December 23, 2016
Workshop: January 23, 2017