Call for abstracts: Rehumanizing Algorithmic Systems workshop on Monday 18.9.2023 with Professor Sarah Pink (Monash University)

The goal of this workshop is to convene researchers for a collective exploration of rehumanizing algorithmic systems. While this research endeavor is not new, it is needed with ever-increasing urgency. With the spread of algorithmic systems from media and health to urban planning and education, algorithms have become an everyday concern. Dehumanizing – a term that has been associated in human history with the effects of colonialism, genocide, fascism, and racism – is now frequently used to describe aspects of algorithmic systems and automated decision-making. In Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff (2019, 100) declares in a rather alarmist manner that we are merely ”human natural resources” for the data extracting machinery.

The shift promoted by digital developments is that increasingly it is not overt human action that treats citizens and consumers as less than fully human, but algorithmic ways of handling them. Algorithmic systems are of course also designed and implemented by humans, but “with the latest advancement of algorithms and their widespread adoption across society, dehumanization becomes fully automated and subtly hidden in code” (Haslam and Loughan 2014, 401). For instance, algorithmic management fosters subtle disregard for human attributes, from self-determination to sensory experiences, raising questions of how humanness might be shifting with digital technologies, and what counts as dehumanizing or rehumanizing, and for whom. 

This workshop aims to dissect these dehumanizing aspects while charting avenues for rehumanization in algorithmic systems. The goal is to delve into human responses to technology-induced dehumanization, paving the way for a nuanced understanding of the roles individuals and collectives play – or should play — in technological processes. Methodologically, rehumanization serves as a compass to navigate human involvement and aspirations in algorithmic systems. We invite scholarly contributions to scrutinize how algorithmic guidance and management currently shape human identity and agency, and call for collective pushback. Through a discussion that bridges theoretical, conceptual and empirical perspectives, the workshop seeks to explore the multifaceted and provocative nature of dehumanization and rehumanization in algorithmic systems and beyond. 

We expect the papers to address one or more of the following and/or related questions:

  • What dehumanizing or rehumanizing attributes do algorithmic systems encompass?
  • Who gets to dehumanize with algorithmic techniques and how?
  • How can we dissect the concept of human embedded in algorithmic design?
  • In what ways is the notion of humanness reconfigured within algorithmic systems?
  • How does humanness withstand,  erode or flourish in algorithmic systems?
  • How should we conceptualize rehumanization efforts in relation to algorithmic futures?

If you are interested in presenting in this workshop, please send an abstract of 250 words to and cc by August 29, 2023. We will inform you whether your proposal is accepted by the end of August.

You are also welcome to participate without a paper, in which case let us know that you are coming. The event will take place September 18, at the main building of the University of Helsinki (room U4075).The full program of the event (with the exact starting time in the morning) will be circulated later. 

Confirmed speakers include: Sarah Pink, Laura Savolainen, Minna Ruckenstein, and Santeri Räisänen 

This workshop is arranged by Re-humanizing Automated Decision-Making -project, funded by the Finnish Academy, and led by Minna Ruckenstein.