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Robots & Artificial Intelligence


Entry requirements

This course is meant for second (and if places available third) year students of the Honours College FSW programme, Science & Society track.


Computational systems are becoming matters of ever greater public concern. Artificial intelligence increasingly manages financial markets, state bureaucracies, and media infrastructures. Robots are now ubiquitous in industrial manufacturing, agricultural production, and care work. These transformations raise new ethical and political concerns, ranging from the displacement of labour to the rise of algorithmically reproduced discrimination. This course examines these transformations through a social-scientific lens. Topics include: race, gender, sexuality, and disability in robotics and artificial intelligence; the shifting relations of gender in the history of computing; the automation of labour in modern capitalism; the growth of the internet as a military, academic, and commercial project; the material infrastructures that make global communication possible, such as undersea fiber-optic cables; the theoretical assumptions of contemporary research in machine learning and human-computer interaction; the emergence of hacker and hacktivist cultures.

Learning objectives

After successful completion of this course, you will:

  • be familiar with the latest scientific insights on the social and cultural dimensions of digital computing, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence and robotics

  • be familiar with the latest scientific debates on how artificial intelligence and robotics are reconfiguring human life

  • be able to think carefully about the political consequences of novel computational technologies

Mode of instruction

Six two-hour seminars with short student presentations followed by discussion.

Preliminary literature list

This list illustrates the literature. The definitive list will be published on Brightspace before the start of the course.

Benanav, Aaron. 2019. “Automation and the Future of Work—1.” New Left Review, no. 119 (October): 5–38.
Benjamin, Ruha. 2019. “Introduction: Discriminatory Design, Liberating Imagination.” In Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life, edited by Ruha Benjamin, 1–22. Durham: Duke University Press.
Coleman, Gabriella. 2009. “Code Is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers.” Cultural Anthropology 24 (3): 420–54.
Haraway, Donna. 1991. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 149–81. New York: Routledge.
Schaffer, Simon. 1994. “Babbage’s Intelligence: Calculating Engines and the Factory System.” Critical Inquiry 21 (1): 203–27.
Seaver, Nick. 2017. “Algorithms as Culture: Some Tactics for the Ethnography of Algorithmic Systems.” Big Data & Society 4 (2).
Suchman, Lucy. 2007. "Figuring the Human in AI and Robotics" and "Demystifications and Reechantments of the Humanlike Machine." In Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions, 226–58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Starosielski, Nicole. 2015. “Fixed Flow: Undersea Cables as Media Infrastructure.” In Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, edited by Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, 53–70. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
Turing, A. M. 1950. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Mind LIX (236): 433–60.


You will receive qualitative feedback on your final project. Assessment of your participation in the categories insufficient, good, or excellent will be based on commitment, active participation, and academic rigour.






Date Time Location
8-2-2022 18:00-20:00 Pieter de la Courtbuilding
22-2-2022 18:00-20:00 Pieter de la Courtbuilding
15-3-2022 18:00-20:00 Pieter de la Courtbuilding
5-4-2022 18:00-20:00 Pieter de la Courtbuilding
26-4-2022 18:00-20:00 Pieter de la Courtbuilding
10-5-2022 18:00-20:00 Pieter de la Courtbuidling


Registration via uSis, activity code 13034.

You can register for the Elective Honours Modules via uSis until five days before the start of the course.

Courses starting in semester 2: registration opens December 15th.

Contact information

If you have any questions, please contact Honours College FSW