Gender equality work in organisations has been criticised for weak results and an unclear political agenda. Studies on such work that put emotions at the centre are rare. The aim of this article is to examine the relationship between feelings of discomfort and practical gender equality work in companies, in projects which are facilitated by external gender experts in collaboration with company employees. Interviews and project documents from four companies involved in a regional gender equality project in Sweden form the empirical basis. Findings show that there was an aspiration to feel discomfort about inequality, among both gender experts and company employees, which was also embedded in recurring practice aiming for feeling and interpreting inequality. The discomfort among interviewees can be understood as signalling both authentic engagement and progress, but may also clash with specific organisational emotion norms and lead to problems associated with individualising responsibility. The article shows the import of discomfort and related emotions in gender equality work, and can be used for critical reflections on and realignment of ideas that inform these efforts.
We share findings from a qualitative study on emotions in Scottish working-class households during lockdown. The results challenge existing research focused on emotional capital, which often suggests that working-class people struggle to provide emotional resources to those close to them. Using the concept of emotional reflexivity we show how these household members cared for each other’s feelings, challenging deficit views of working-class emotionality. This research offers a novel understanding of working-class participants collaboratively making space for each other to feel, many favouring acts of care rather than talking. The COVID-19 lockdown, however, tended to reinforce gendered practices of emotion work, although some participants drew on emotional support beyond the household to try to mitigate this burden. The emotionally reflexive practices seen in these households suggest that sustaining more equality in emotional wellbeing relies on navigating material circumstances, is not always about verbal sharing, is often an interactional achievement, but also means resisting unrealistic expectations of intimate relationships within households as the fountainhead of all emotional succour.
In China, Confucian authoritative familism has long established the tradition of paternal grandparents caring for grandchildren. With urbanisation in progress, many older people choose to settle in cities with their children, mainly to look after their grandchildren, and are known as ‘migrant grandparents’. Through a study of this group in Shanghai, the article reveals four other roles of migrant grandparents in addition to the role of caregivers: namely, workers, leisure seekers, in-laws (qingjia) and spouses. The prioritisation of grandparents’ roles demonstrates their increasing subjectivity in self-determination, transformative social values and personal life expectations. This article argues that Chinese older adults have begun to individualise and that these practices have contributed both to the destruction of the collective single-core family model in traditional and neo-familism and the emergence of independent, dual-core familism between two generations.
Drawing together the threads of the book, this chapter argues that algorithmic thinking can only be understood through an analysis of its tensions. It looks at the different forces and tensions explored throughout the book to build upon this central argument. In addition, the chapter then turns to Michel Foucault’s concept of the ‘will to know’, arguing that what we are now seeing is a mutation of this into a desire or will to automate.
This chapters explores the pushing back of the boundaries of the known and the knowable. Taking Katherine Hayle’s concept of the ‘cognizer’, the chapter looks at how super cognizers are merging that act as bridges into an algorithmic new life. The chapter then develops a series of features of these super cognizers and uses these to think about the tensions created and agency meshes into the form of new forms of knowing. The chapter uses this central concept to think about the tension created by the stretching of the known.
Beginning by thinking about the broader shifts towards algorithmic processes and systems, this chapter reflects on the core issues discussed in the book. In particular, it develops the idea of algorithmic thinking and looks at how this might be contextualized. The chapter introduces the idea of the ‘algorithmic new life’ and how this conception of the changes algorithms will bring is crucial to future developments. The chapter closes by looking at the importance of tensions in understanding algorithms and provides an outline of the two key tensions that structure the book’s content.
Exploring the tensions that are created as different forms of agency mesh, this chapter looks at where the human actor is reintegrated into algorithmic thinking. Using a case study of a large risk-management system, it looks directly at how the boundaries around the acceptability of automation are managed. The chapter argues that notions of overstepping and of too much automation are embedded into understandings of these limits. The chapter looks at how human agency is circumscribed within algorithmic thinking, and how limits are boundaries are managed and breached in the expansion of algorithmic systems.
Algorithmic thinking creates both new knowns and new unknowns. This chapter reflects on the tension generated by unknowability. Drawing on Georges Bataille’s concept of ‘nonknowledge’, the chapter examines the historical development of advancing neural network technologies. The chapter argues that the presence of nonknowledge is now pursued in the advancement of these forms of automation and AI. It closes by reflecting on what the presence of nonknowledge might mean for the development of algorithmic thinking and how we can identify a suspension knowing that operates in these systems.
Taking case studies of the art market and the smart home, this chapter looks at the sidelining of the human within algorithmic systems. Focusing on the application of blockchain, the chapter looks at the vulnerabilities within systems and how humans are perceived to represent weak points within data systems. The chapter argues that a posthuman security is emerging, in which the human is bypassed in order to produce images of a secure society.
We are living in algorithmic times.
From machine learning and artificial intelligence to blockchain or simpler news-feed filtering, automated systems can transform the social world in ways that are just starting to be imagined.
Redefining these emergent technologies as the new systems of knowing, pioneering scholar David Beer examines the acute tensions they create and how they are changing what is known and what is knowable. Drawing on cases ranging from the art market and the smart home through to financial tech, AI patents and neural networks, he develops key concepts for understanding the framing, envisioning and implementation of algorithms.
This book will be of interest to anyone who is concerned with the rise of algorithmic thinking and the way it permeates society.