Artificial intelligence (AI) is considered a key technology in contemporary societies. Discursive and public imaginations play a pivotal role in envisioning and determining the trajectories of AI and its integration into society. Particularly, the approach of sociotechnical imaginaries offers a meaningful perspective to analyze the characteristics and impact of imaginaries surrounding technological advances. As AI seems to be in a formative phase, both as a technology and infrastructure as well as regarding its public perception, it is particularly relevant to understand how imaginaries impact economic, research, and political agendas, and who is pushing which agenda. Therefore, this chapter introduces the concept of imaginaries and offers a critical analytical framework to question imaginaries of AI. In addition, it provides an overview of current research on sociotechnical imaginaries around AI and related technological discourses considering relevant stakeholders, media representations, and public perceptions of the technology.

  • Bareis, J., & Katzenbach, C. (2021). Talking AI into being: The narratives and imaginaries of national AI strategies and their performative politics. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 016224392110300. https://doi.org/10.1177/01622439211030007. Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S.-H. (Eds.). (2015). Dreamscapes of modernity: Sociotechnical imaginaries and the fabrication of power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mager, A., & Katzenbach, C. (2021). Future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology: Multiple, contested, commodified. New Media & Society, 23(2), 223–236. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820929321. Zeng, J., Chan, C., & Schäfer, M. S. (2022). Contested Chinese dreams of AI? Public discourse about artificial intelligence on WeChat and People’s Daily Online. Information, Communication & Society, 25(3), 319–340. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2020.1776372. BIBLIOGRAPHY Aloy, J.-B. (2017, November). Revolution@Work: Fears and expectations - ipsos. Ipsos. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.ipsos.com/en/revolutionwork-fears-and-expectations. Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso. Arriagada, A., & Bishop, S. (2021). Between commerciality and authenticity: The imaginary of social media influencers in the platform economy. Communication, Culture and Critique, 14(4), 568–586. https://doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcab050. Bank, M., Duffy, F., Leyendecker, V., & Silva, M. (2021). (rep.). The lobby network: Big tech’s web of influence in the EU. Brussels and Cologne: Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl e.V. Bareis, J., & Katzenbach, C. (2021). Talking AI into being: The narratives and imaginaries of national AI strategies and their performative politics. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 016224392110300. https://doi.org/10.1177/01622439211030007. Barker, J. (2015). Guerilla engineers: The Internet and the politics of freedom in Indonesia. In S. Jasanoff & S. H. Kim (Eds.), Dreamscapes of modernity: Sociotechnical imaginaries and the fabrication of power. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 199–218. Bechmann, A., & Bowker, G. C. (2019). Unsupervised by any other name: Hidden layers of knowledge production in artificial intelligence on social media. Big Data & Society, 6(1), 205395171881956. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951718819569. Beck, S., Jasanoff, S., Stirling, A., & Polzin, C. (2021). The governance of sociotechnical transformations to sustainability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 49, 143–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2021.04.010. Bijker, W. E. (2012). Social construction of technology. In Friis, J. K. B. Olsen, S. A. Pedersen, & V. F. Hendricks (Eds.), A companion to the philosophy of technology. London & New York: Wiley-Blackwell. Bijker, W. E., & Law, J. (Eds.). (1992). Building society, shaping technology. Cambridge: MIT Press. Blei, D., & Bostrom, N. (2014). Superintelligence: Paths, dangers, strategies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Birnbaum, E. (2022, June 29). The Ai ‘gold rush’ in Washington. Politico. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.politico.com/newsletters/digital-future-daily/2022/06/29/small-fry-ai-dc-try-00043278?tab=most-read. Brennen, A. (2020). What do people really want when they say they want “explainable AI?” We asked 60 stakeholders. Extended abstracts of the 2020 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems. https://doi.org/10.1145/3334480.3383047. Brennen, J. S., Howard, P. N., & Nielsen, R. K. (2018). An industry-led debate: How UK media cover artificial intelligence. Retrieved from https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/our-research/industry-led-debate-how-uk-media cover-artificial-intelligence. Bolter, J. D. (1986). Turing’s man Western culture in the computer age. Penguin Books. Bucher, T. (2016). The algorithmic imaginary: Exploring the ordinary affects of Facebook algorithms. Information, Communication & Society, 20(1), 30–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118x.2016.1154086. Bulathwela, S., Pérez-Ortiz, M., Holloway, C., & Shawe-Taylor, J. (2021). Could AI democratise education? Socio-technical imaginaries of an edtech revolution. arXiv. https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2112.02034. Cave, S., Craig, C., Dihal, K., Dillon, S., Montgomery, J., Singler, B., & Taylor, L. (2018). (rep.). Portrayals and perceptions of AI and why they matter. London; The Royal Society. Cave, S., Monique, D. K. S., & Dillon, S. (2020). Ai narratives: A history of imaginative thinking about intelligent machines. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Campolo, A., & Crawford, K. (2020). Enchanted determinism: Power without responsibility in artificial intelligence. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, 6(2020), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.17351/ests2020.277. Cardon, D., Cointet, J.-P., & Mazières, A. (2018). Neurons spike back: The invention of inductive machines and the artificial intelligence controversy. Réseaux, 211(5), 173. Chokshi, N. (2019, May 15) Facial recognition’s many controversies, from stadium surveillance to racist software. In New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/business/facial-recognition-software controversy.html. Collins, H. M. (1993). Artificial experts: Social knowledge and intelligent machines. London: MIT Press. Collins, H. M. (2018). Artifictional intelligence: Against humanity’s surrender to computers. Wiley. Courtial, J. P., & Law, J. (1989). A co-word study of artificial intelligence. Social Studies of Science, 19(2), 301–311. Cui, D., & Wu, F. (2019). The influence of media use on public perceptions of artificial intelligence in China: Evidence from an online survey. Information Development, 37(1), 45–57. https://doi.org/10.1177/0266666919893411. Deutscher Bundestag. (2018). Bericht der Enquete-Kommission Künstliche Intelligenz – Gesellschaftliche Verantwortung und wirtschaftliche, soziale und ökologische Potenziale. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://dserver.bundestag.de/btd/19/237/1923700.pdf. Elish, M. C., & Boyd, D. (2018). Situating methods in the magic of Big Data and AI. Communication monographs, 85(1), 57-80. El Morr, C., Maret, P., Muhlenbach, F., Dharmalingam, D., Tadesse, R., Creighton, A., Kundi, B., Buettgen, A., Mgwigwi, T., Dinca-Panaitescu, S., Dua, E., & Gorman, R. (2021). A virtual community for disability advocacy: Development of a searchable artificial intelligence–supported platform. JMIR Formative Research, 5(11). https://doi.org/10.2196/33335. Eurobarometer. (2014). Public perceptions of science, technology and innovation. European Commission. European Commission. (2020). White paper on artificial intelligence - a European approach to excellence and trust [White Paper]. Brussels. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/commission-white-paper-artificial-intelligence-feb2020_en.pdf. Felt, U., & Öchsner, S. (2019). Reordering the “world of things”: The sociotechnical imaginary of RFID tagging and new geographies of responsibility. Science and Engineering Ethics, 25, 1425–1446. Ferree, M. M., Gamson, W. A., Gerhards, J., & Rucht, D. (2002). Four models of the public sphere in modern democracies. Theory and Society, 31(3), 289–324. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1016284431021 Fischer, S., & Puschmann, C. (2021). Wie Deutschland über Algorithmen schreibt. Eine Analyse des Mediendiskurses über Algorithmen und Künstliche Intelligenz (2005–2020). Bertelsmann Stiftung. Gao, S., He, L., Chen, Y., Li, D., & Lai, K. (2020). Public perception of artificial intelligence in medical care: Content analysis of social media. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(7). https://doi.org/10.2196/16649. Gerhards, J., & Schäfer, M. S. (2006). Die Herstellung einer öffentlichen Hegemonie. Humangenomforschung in der deutschen und der US-amerikanischen Presse. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Goode, L. (2018). Life, but not as we know it: AI and the popular imagination. Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, 10(2), 185–207. Hilgartner, S., & Bosk, C. L. (1988). The rise and fall of social problems: A public arenas model. American Journal of Sociology, 94(1), 53–78. https://doi.org/10.1086/228951. Holder, C., Watts, M., & Khurana, V. (2018). (rep.). Artificial intelligence: Public perception, attitude and trust. London: Bristows. Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S.-H. (2009). Containing the atom: Sociotechnical imaginaries and nuclear power in the United States and South Korea. Minerva, 47(2), 119–146. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-009-9124-4. Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S.-H. (2013). Sociotechnical imaginaries and national energy policies. Science as Culture, 22(2), 189–196. https://doi.org/10.1080/09505431.2013.786990. Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S.-H. (Eds.). (2015). Dreamscapes of modernity: Sociotechnical imaginaries and the fabrication of power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Jing, M. & Lou C. (2018). 人工智能技术在新闻传播中伦理失范的思考. 出版广角, 1(2018), 9–13. Larsson, S. (2020). On the governance of artificial intelligence through ethics guidelines. Asian Journal of Law and Society, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1017/als.2020.19. Jobin, A., Ienca, M., & Vayena, E. (2019). The global landscape of AI ethics guidelines. Nature Machine Intelligence, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42256-019-0088-2. Jones, M. (2022). Towards civil strategization of AI in Germany. HIIG Discussion Paper Series 2021-1. 20 pages. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6091638. Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003. Katzenbach, C. (2012). Technologies as institutions: Rethinking the role of technology in media governance constellations. In N. Just & M. Puppis (Eds.), Trends in communication policy research: New theories, new methods, new subjects (pp. 117–138). Intellect. Katzenbach, C. (2021). “AI will fix this” – The technical, discursive, and political turn to AI in governing communication. Big Data & Society, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517211046182. Kelley, P. G., Yang, Y., Heldreth, C., Moessner, C., Sedley, A., Kramm, A., Newman, D. T., & Woodruff, A. (2022). Exciting, useful, worrying, futuristic: Public perception of artificial intelligence in 8 countries. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://arxiv.org/pdf/2001.00081.pdf. LaRosa, E., & Danks, D. (2018). Impacts on trust of healthcare AI. Proceedings of the 2018 AAAI/ACM conference on AI, ethics, and society. https://doi.org/10.1145/3278721.3278771. Law, J., Shankar, K., Hakken, D., Østerlund, C., Wyatt, S., Milojevic, S., … Alac, M. (2016). The handbook of science and technology studies. Cambridge: MIT Press. Lehtiniemi, T., & Ruckenstein, M. (2019). The social imaginaries of data activism. Big Data & Society, 6(1), 205395171882114. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951718821146. Lösch, A., Böhle, K., Coenen, C., Dobroc, P., Ferrari, A., Fuchs, D., Heil, R., & Hommrich, D. (2016). Technikfolgenabschätzung von soziotechnischen Zukünften. Discussion paper no.03/ Dec. 2016. Institut für Technikzukünfte. KIT. Mackenzie, A. (2017). Machine learners: Archaeology of a data practice. Cambridge: The MIT Press. Mager, A. (2017). Search engine imaginary: Visions and values in the co-production of search technology and Europe. Social Studies of Science, 47(2), 240–262. Mager, A., & Katzenbach, C. (2021). Future imaginaries in the making and governing of digital technology: Multiple, contested, commodified. New Media & Society, 23(2), 223–236. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444820929321. Mao, Y., Shi-Kupfer, K. (2023). Online public discourse on artificial intelligence and ethics in China: context, content, and implications. AI & Soc, 38, 373–389. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01309-7 Matthes, J., & Kohring, M. (2008). The content analysis of media frames: Toward improving reliability and validity. Journal of Communication, 58(2), 258–279. Meyer, U., & Schulz-Schaeffer, I. (2006). Three forms of interpretative flexibility. Science, Technology & Innovation Studies, 2006(1), 25–40. Milde, J. (2017). Schlüsseltechnologien in der öffentlichen Kommunikation. In H. Bonfadelli, B. Fähnrich, C. Lüthje, J. Milde, M. Rhomberg, & M. Schäfer (Eds.), Forschungsfeld Wissenschaftskommunikation (pp. 373–390). Wiesbaden: Springer. Mou, Y. (2017). 传播的进化:人工智能将如何重塑人类的交流. Beijing: Tsinghua University Press. Mou, Y. (2020). 从诠释到他异:AI 媒体技术带来的社交与认知变革. 上海师范大学学 1 (2020), 95–104. National Science Board. (2018). Science and engineering indicators 2018. Washington: NSB. Neverla, I., & Schäfer, M. S. (Eds.). (2012). Das Medien-Klima. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Natale, S., & Ballatore, A. (2017). Imagining the thinking machine: Technological myths and the rise of artificial intelligence. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 135485651771516. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856517715164. Science Board. (2018). Science and engineering indicators 2018. Washington: NSB. Olbrich, P., & Witjes, N. (2016). Sociotechnical imaginaries of big data: commercial satellite imagery and its promise of speed and transparency. In A. Bunnik, A. Cawley, M. Mulqueen et al. (Eds.), Big data challenges. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 115–126. Ossewaarde, M., & Gulenc, E. (2020). National varieties of artificial intelligence discourses: Myth, utopianism, and solutionism in West European policy expectations. Computer, 53(11), 53–61. https://doi.org/10.1109/mc.2020.2992290. Paltieli, G. (2021). The political imaginary of national AI strategies. AI & Society. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01258-1. Pinch, T. J., & Bijker, W. E. (1984). The social construction of facts and artefacts: Or how the sociology of science and the sociology of technology might benefit each other. Social Studies of Science, 14, 399–441. Powles, J. (2018). The seductive diversion of “solving” bias in artificial intelligence. Medium. https://onezero.medium.com/the-seductive-diversion-of-solving-bias-in-artificial-intelligence-890df5e5ef53. Reigeluth, T., & Castelle, M. (2020). What kind of learning is machine learning? The Cultural Life of Machine Learning, 79–115. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56286-1_3. Rieder, G. (2018). Tracing big data imaginaries through public policy: The case of the European Commission. In A. R. Sætnan, I. Schneider, & N. Green (Eds.), The politics and policies of big data: Big data, big brother? Routledge, pp. 89–109. Rudek, T. J. (2021). Capturing the invisible: Sociotechnical imaginaries of energy. The critical overview. Science and Public Policy, 49(2), 219–245. https://doi.org/10.1093/scipol/scab076. Sadowski, J., & Bendor, R. (2018). Selling smartness: Corporate narratives and the Smart City as a sociotechnical imaginary. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 44(3), 540–563. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243918806061. Savage, N. (2020). The race to the top among the world’s leaders in artificial intelligence. Nature, 588(7837). https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03409-8. Schäfer, M. S. (2007). Wissenschaft in den Medien. Die Medialisierung naturwissenschaftlicher Themen. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Schäfer, M. S. (2009). From public understanding to public engagement: An empirical assessment of changes in science coverage. Science Communication, 30(4), 475–505. Schäfer, M. S. (2015). Digital public sphere. In G. Mazzoleni (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of political communication (pp. 322–328). London: Wiley-Blackwell. Schön, D., & Rein, M. (1994). Frame reflection: Resolving intractable policy issues. New York: Basic Books Simon, J. (2016). Values in design. In Handbuch Medien-und Informationsethik (pp. 357–364). Springer. Suchman, L. 2008. “Feminist STS and the sciences of the artificial.” In E. J. Hackett, O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch, & J. Wajcman (Eds.), The handbook of science and technology studies (pp. 139–164). Cambridge: MIT Press. Sun, M., Hu, W., & Wu, Y. (2022). Public perceptions and attitudes towards the application of artificial intelligence in journalism: From a China-based survey. Journalism Practice, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2022.2055621. Taylor, C. (2003). Modern social imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press. Taylor, A., Rosner, D., & Wiberg, M. (2021). Ai activism. Interactions, 28(1), 5–5. https://doi.org/10.1145/3442368. United Nations. (2021). (rep.). United Nations activities on artificial intelligence (AI). Geneva, Switzerland: ITU Publications. Vailionis, I. (2021, September 5). What’s the public’s perception of AI: Reshape by momentive. Momentive. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from https://www.momentive.ai/en/blog/perception-of-ai/#:~:text=Among%20our%20respondents%2C%2039%25%20believe,the%20abilities%20of%20human%20analysts. Van Es, K., & Poell, T. (2020). Platform imaginaries and Dutch public service media. Social Media + Society, 6(2), 205630512093328. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305120933289. Vicente, P. N., & Dias-Trindade, S. (2021). Reframing sociotechnical imaginaries: The case of the fourth industrial revolution. Public Understanding of Science, 30(6), 708–723. https://doi.org/10.1177/09636625211013513. Wellner, G., & Rothman, T. (2019). Feminist AI: Can we expect our AI systems to become feminist? Philosophy & Technology, 1(12), 1–15. Whittaker, M., Crawford, K., Dobbe, R., Fried, G., Kaziunas, E., Mathur, V., Myers West, S., Richardson, R., Schultz, J., & Schwartz, O. (2018). (rep.). AI now report 2018. Williams, K. C. (2018). Intersections of technology and civil society. K4D Helpdesk Report 448. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. Winner, L. (2010). The whale and the reactor: A search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Woolgar, S. (1985). Why not a sociology of machines? The case of sociology and artificial intelligence. Sociology, 19(4), 557–572. Zeng, J., Chan, C., & Schäfer, M. S. (2022). Contested Chinese dreams of AI? Public discourse about artificial intelligence on WeChat and People’s Daily Online. Information, Communication & Society, 25(3), 319–340. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2020.1776372. Zhang, B., & Dafoe, A. (2019). Artificial intelligence: American attitudes and trends. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3312874. Zou, J., & Schiebinger, L. (2018). AI can be sexist and racist—It’s time to make it fair. Nature, 559(2018), 324–326.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Other access options

Redeem Token

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institutional Access

Personal login

Log in with your Elgar Online account

Login with your Elgar account