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Affective Responses to AI in Language Work

a Sociolinguistic Pilot Study

At a glance


In an era of globalisation, digitalisation, and the increasing use of AI (Artificial Intelligence), it is the aim of this joint multi-site project to ethnographically assess the lived experiences and affective effects of this technological transformation on multilingual language work in multinational institutions in Switzerland and Japan. The central question in this research is thus: how do human language workers affectively experience and respond to automated and AI-powered language work?

Anxieties and insecurities resulting from the accelerated launch of AI are at an all-time high. Educators and artists worry about issues of legitimacy, authorship, and copyright, while policy-makers foreground concerns about privacy and data protection. Language workers (Boutet 2013) are directly affected by AI in terms of their professional practice: Customer service (chatbots), speech recognition (speech-to-text), translation (automated services), text composition (automated templates of large language models) are all forms of language work (Boutet 2013), which is now ‘promised’ to be performed automatically by intelligent digital systems. In this vein, tech companies usually argue that the introduction of AI will help reduce redundant and simple task, freeing up resources for more complex processes and improve work-life balances. This project focuses on how language workers experience these technological developments, what they hope for or are afraid of. Through a pilot study comparing the cases of Japan and Switzerland, we are interested in the lived experiences (Busch 2017) of language workers, their emotions and, thus, workers’ similar or different affective responses to AI and digital automation at work.