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Stories In/Around the Machine

Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have become entangled with informal work. It enables access to better livelihoods, but also facilitates increased worker surveillance, expands the shadow labour force, and impacts workers’ rights. What complications do technological advancement and AI bring to aspirations for decent work in Asia? How do workers and unions grapple with perpetual surveillance, extractive data arrangements, and a culture of endless optimisation that is being forced upon them?

EngageMedia, in partnership with researcher Yung Au of the Oxford Internet Institute, is exploring how layers of AI algorithms and data extraction intersect with the long history of informal work in Southeast Asia. Through storytelling and visualisations, Stories In/Around the Machine aims to illustrate the rich and lively stories of informal economy workers living with AI systems – from domestic workers operating behind online storefronts, to anecdotes of algorithmic resistance from street vendors. These stories will be collected through focus group discussions with workers, union leaders, and activists, and translated into visual stories by local artists. The collected stories will concretise and illustrate the impact of the increased digitalisation and datafication within Asia’s informal work sector.

The research aims to shed light on how this surplus of data is informing policy and design decisions of technologies, which will help inform improved AI governance that takes workers’ rights and their empowerment into account.

The project is supported by the Minderoo-Oxford Challenge Fund in AI Governance.

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Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights in Southeast Asia

How does artificial intelligence (AI) affect Southeast Asia? By exploring its uses and implications to regional human rights movements, we aim to increase civil society’s awareness on the topic and understand how AI can be incorporated into digital rights advocates’ lines of work.

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