Powerful Futures: How a Big Tech Company Envisions Humans and Technologies in the Workplace of the Future

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1 Scopus citations


Big tech companies have had increasing control over how we work with technologies and how technologies define the work we do. In this paper, I identify the sociotechnical futures that Amazon-one of the big tech companies-envisions and the future of work that the company is moving toward. I explore the future of fulfillment centers through an analysis of the patents on fulfillment center technologies which Amazon may turn into reality one day. In my analysis, I focus on humans by asking how they are configured in the future of fulfillment centers and, more specifically, how Amazon envisions the role of human labor within work automation and AI systems. The analysis reveals where and how humans are expected to "step in"to operate the future of fulfillment centers. I discuss my findings within and beyond CSCW, highlighting the importance of studying tech companies' imaginaries. I argue that by understanding tech companies' imaginaries, it becomes possible for us to launch effective sociotechnical interventions to negotiate or even resist their specific imaginaries and/or design ways for a more democratic uptake of companies' future technologies. Finally, I articulate practical ways in which patents can be utilized in CSCW research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3610103
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW2
StatePublished - Oct 4 2023


  • automation
  • big tech
  • human labor
  • human worker
  • patents
  • sociotechnical futures
  • the future of work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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