Automated Welfare Futures: Interrogating Automated Decision-Making in the Nordics

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


How can we, as social scientists, make sense of the promises and implications of automated and data-driven systems that are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and essential for the Nordic welfare states? What are the theoretical and methodological tensions and possibilities that these systems pose to research when they assemble and disassemble existing structures, organisational logics and dependencies?

Over the last few years, critical social science research has established that data harvesting and digital tracking, in particular, pose a general societal challenge that risks undermining Nordic values of autonomy and equity and the overall welfare of people. At the same time, the welfare state and welfare provision are increasingly characterised by processes of datafication, promoting uses of data analytics and automated decision-making (ADM). Researchers have flagged datafication as a specific concern for the public sector in relation to questions of ADM systems, and other forms of data-driven optimization. Despite the burgeoning literature on various concerns and the ethical guidelines and regulatory initiatives that try to respond to them, however, we have engaged so far with a limited range of theoretical and methodological approaches to explore the social dynamics at play in concrete contexts of ADM.

This roundtable brings together key scholars that engage critically with the social aims and implications of datafication to address how ADM is imagined, practised and experienced in different empirical contexts and across various organisational levels in the Nordics. The roundtable will open with short ’provocations’ through which the speakers present and contextualise concepts they have used or would like to promote in the study of emerging automated and data-driven systems. The provocations are followed by a joint discussion about how these concepts can support sociological research that studies the promises and implications of automated and data-driven systems as part of the myths and realities of the Nordic welfare states, now and in the future.


Martin Berg is Professor of Media Technology and Associate Professor of Sociology at Malmö University, Sweden. He currently leads the project ‘Working with Algorithmic Colleagues: Expectations and Experiences of Automated Decision-Making’ (funded by The Swedish Research Council), and coordinates the research network ‘Re-humanising Automated Decision-Making’ (funded by ‘Riksbankens Jubileumsfond’).

Anne Kaun is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Södertörn University, Stockholm and Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2021. Her research interests include media theory, mediated temporalities, algorithmic culture, automation and artificial intelligence from a humanistic, social science perspective. She is currently working on several comparative projects funded by among others the Swedish Research Council exploring the implications of the digital welfare state from a citizen perspective.

Stefan Larsson is Associate Professor at the Dept of Technology and Society, Lund University. As a socio-legal scholar, he leads a group studying governance and issues of trust and transparency in autonomous and AI-driven technologies, in domains ranging from the public sector (Future Challenges in the Nordics), to consumer markets (WASP-HS), medicine (The Swedish Research Council, Cancerfonden) and social robotics (WASP-HS).

Stine Lomborg is Associate Professor and director of the Center for Tracking and Society at University of Copenhagen. Her work addresses digital tracking and datafication across personal, work and institutional contexts. She leads several research projects, among them ‘Datafied Living’ funded by the ERC StG and the Independent Research Fund Denmark.

Minna Ruckenstein is Associate Professor, Centre for Consumer Society Research, University of Helsinki. Her work deals with everyday and organisational aspects of datafication, in fields ranging from content moderation and advertising to digital health and insurance. She directs an interdisciplinary group of PhD candidates and post-docs, with funded projects focusing on rehumanising automated decision-making, algorithmic culture, and everyday engagements with algorithmic systems in Helsinki and in Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Period2022 Aug 11
Event titleMyths and Realities of the Nordic Welfare State: 30th Nordic Sociological Association Conference
Event typeConference
LocationReykjavik, IcelandShow on map

Free keywords

  • ADM
  • automated decision-making
  • Welfare
  • Governance
  • AI governance
  • ADM governance