Montag, 25. September 2023, 17:30 - 18:30 iCal

STS Talk by Doris Allhutter

Infrastructures of Welfare: the datafication of Europe's systems of social protection

STS Seminarroom
Universitätsstraße 7/Stiege II/6. Stock (NIG) , 1010 Vienna




Automation is thought to increase productivity with little effort and lower costs in many areas. What happens to our wellbeing when this logic is deployed to support decisions on welfare?


Across Europe, the welfare sector is facing increasing demands and shrinking resources. To mitigate social hardships more effectively and increase public administration's efficiency, policymakers suggest introducing data-driven decision-support and intelligent systems. The datafication of core welfare services such as employment services, healthcare, and social benefits provision has far-reaching implications as regards social inclusion, equality, governance, and democracy. Although welfare systems differ across Europe, emergent data-based infrastructures for public administration share characteristics such as the use of prediction based on past data and the idea of better targeting welfare services and benefits through citizen profiling.


Her talk presents research on automated welfare provision across European welfare regimes and focuses on the implications of algorithms and AI for the future of European citizens and societies. It suggests that data-based infrastructures for public administration are shaping welfare systems and how citizens encounter and are addressed by the state. Linking research in social policy and STS, the presentation develops an infrastructural and new-materialist approach to studying the transformative trajectories of data-driven decision-making in welfare.




Doris Allhutter is a senior scientist at the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA), Austrian Academy of Sciences, where she leads the Austrian team of an international comparative study on Automating Welfare funded by Chanse. Her research focuses on the implicit normativity of computing practices in machine learning under the lens of how these practices are entrenched in power relations. Currently, she is the president of STS Austria and a member of the advisory board on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence of the Austrian UNESCO Commission. She was a visiting researcher at Vassar College New York (2019), UC Berkeley (2013), and Lancaster University (2011), as well as a Fellow at the Paderborn Research College ‘Data Society’ (2021), and the Digital Curation Institute, University of Toronto (2021/22). Her publications include Algorithmic Profiling of Job Seekers in Austria: How Austerity Politics Are Made Effective in Frontiers in Big Data, and Of ‘Working Ontologists’ and ‘High-quality Human Components’. The Politics of Semantic Infrastructures in DigitalSTS: A Field Guide for Science & Technology Studies.


Department of Science and Technology Studies


Karin Neumann
Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung