Doctoral defence: Auli Viidalepp “The Expected AI as a sociocultural construct and its impact on the discourse on technology”

On 18 December at 15:00, Auli Viidalepp will defend her doctoral thesis “The Expected AI as a sociocultural construct and its impact on the discourse on technology” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Semiotics and Culture Studies).

Professor Timo Maran, University of Tartu

Professor Kay Lynette O’Halloran, University of Liverpool (United Kingdom)
Professor Donald Francis Favareau, National University of Singapore (Singapore)


The thesis introduces and criticises the discourse on technology, with a specific reference to the concept of AI. The discourse on AI is particularly saturated with reified metaphors which drive connotations and delimit understandings of technology in society. To better analyse the discourse on AI, the thesis proposes the concept of “expected AI”, a composite signifier filled with historical and sociocultural connotations and numerous referent objects. Relying on cultural semiotics, science and technology studies, and a diverse selection of heuristic concepts, the thesis delves beneath the surface of AI discourse and demonstrates the hidden political, social, cultural, and ecological dangers of AI. The entanglement of the discourse(s) with (science) fiction, folklore, myth, and religion impacts how AI is perceived and received, as well as the expectations to AI-enabled technologies now and in the future. The thesis also proposes a more ethical and comprehensive ontological model for AI systems. The model describes AI systems as complex figurations, considering their socio-material organisation, global economic-material becoming, and impact on the environment, social institutions, and the semiosphere. The dissertation shows that AI should be understood not just as an object or sociotechnical system but as its entire product chain encompassing the used resources and impacts (both material and semiotic) on a planetary scale.

The defence can also be viewed in Zoom (Meeting ID: 910 5408 0819, Passcode: 572833

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