The Birth of Algorithmic Aspirational Control

Stig Strandbæk Nyman

Research output: Book/ReportPhD thesis

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This dissertation coins the term algorithmic aspirational control (AAC) to describe an emergent configuration of algorithmic control. In this class of algorithmic management systems, computer-programmed procedures direct workers toward organizational goals through prompts, personal productivity dashboards, targeted algorithmic recommendations, and other forms of digital nudging. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s analytical strategy of analyzing the process of problematization, the dissertation asks what assumptions and dilemmas emerge as managers attempt to control workers through digital productivity nudges.
The dissertation offers a twofold contribution: First, it maps the philosophical and ethical worldviews underpinning the design and use of AAC systems from the archival material of Microsoft’s MyAnalytics application and the evolution of managerial thought. The analytical work shows that while AAC systems are packaged as a means of enhancing the productivity and well-being of workers, AAC systems are also committed to an individualization of the challenges of contemporary work life. Thus, while AAC systems can support workers, they also introduce simultaneous risks of obscuring systematic work arrangement issues and potential conflicts of interest between workers and their employers. Second, this dissertation conceptualizes an analytical strategy for conducting historically oriented problematization research on information systems (IS). The approach offers guidance on how IS researchers can draw upon archival material to map the conditions of possibility for contemporary digital technologies and practices, opening up spaces for renewed curiosity, refusal, and reconfiguration.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherCopenhagen Business School [Phd]
Number of pages145
ISBN (Print)9788775682157
ISBN (Electronic)9788775682164
Publication statusPublished - 2023
SeriesPhD Series

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