Unlearning and negative capability in ICT sector

Focusing on ICT experts, this case study answers the question of what kinds of capabilities experts develop to survive in the turbulent job market of the digital economy. In the current labour market, ICT experts face different skill shortages in non-technical areas such as collaboration, customer engagement and self-organisation. Therefore, we expect that highly educated workers must ensure their employability by constantly overcoming and redefining their learned expertise and remaining willing to engage in voluntary activities and free labour, thus accumulating their peer-production meritocracy. Based on the existing semi-structured interviews on ICT-experts of Nokia Mobile Phones 2011-2012 and new qualitative interviews gathered in this subproject, Anne Koski analyses the survival strategies of ICT experts as negative expertise. Making new innovations and staying employable is not possible without negative capability in the unsecure job market of the digital economy. Negative expertise is here studied as an affective and practical activity, where negative capability becomes a ‘trick of the trade’ of ICT experts, who must accept failure and non-knowing, view themselves unskilled and ignorant and learn from past experience in order to survive. The aim of the case study is to address both the mistakes and failures and the successes to trace the accumulation process of the negative capability of individual experts and expert teams.

AI politics and non-knowledge

In recent years, in national and multinational strategies, the reports of ministries, and “white papers,” robotics has been predicted to revolutionize working life, while artificial intelligence has been called the new electricity. The debate on artificial intelligence and robotics has been strongly marked by futurity, future orientation, under the guise of which it is possible to present a wide range of possible or impossible future scenarios. The NEGATE project is looking at two case studies – care robotics and automated decision making (ADM) – to study how ignorance and nonknowledge materializes in the debates on robotics and artificial intelligence in the 2020s. Applying Sheila Jasanoff’s notion of socio-technical imagination among some other theoretical approaches, the project considers care robots and artificial intelligence as imaginary technologies. In solving vicious social problems, artificial intelligence has been seen in the role of the savior in society, which has been actively promoted by various agents, including decision makers and the media as well as many experts. Care robots are presented as a solution to the shortage of nurses and as providers of services for the elderly care. Artificial intelligence is believed to be able to predict the anxiety of children and families in advance before social workers can identify problems. The socio-technical imagination of artificial intelligence and robotics is not just a harmless vision of robotics and artificial intelligence, but the imagination has many concrete consequences in society. Imaginary futures can, for example, justify new investment in R&D projects and the digitization of the public sector.


Van Aerschot, L. & Parviainen, J. (2020) Robots responding to care needs? A multitasking care robot pursued for 25 years, available products offer simple entertainment and instrumental assistance. Ethics and Information Technology Available at

Parviainen, J. & Coeckelbergh, M. (2020) The political choreography of the Sophia Robot: From robot rights and citizenship to political performances for the social robotics market. AI & Society. DOI: 10.1007/s00146-020-01104-w