Automation and the future of work: A social shaping of technology approach

Debra Howcroft, Phil Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent years have seen enormous attention paid to automation and its potential implications for the future of work. This study rejects unhelpful speculation and, instead, poses the question ‘what is shaping automation and its predicted effects?’ In contrast to the technological determinism framing much of the current debate, this study utilises the social shaping of technology (SST) approach, a theoretically informed body of research largely overlooked by sociology of work scholars. Compared with mainstream commentary, which treats technology as separate from the social world, SST facilitates examination of how the development and use of technology are shaped by broader socioeconomic concerns and politics. The analysis presented is based on an understanding of how technology is shaped by existing technology, economics, social relations, gender and the state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-370
Number of pages20
JournalNew Technology, Work & Employment
Issue number2
Early online date10 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • AI
  • automation
  • fourth industrial revolution
  • future of work
  • robots
  • social shaping of technology
  • technology


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