Christian Pentzold

In this article, we take issue with an idea of autonomous and efficient automation that is upheld through the paradoxical conjunction of a flawed vision of the technological fix and the under-acknowledged human work required to fill in the gaps between machines and users. Our argument is based on two case studies that sit at opposite tails of automation processes: the frontend of self-service checkouts and the backend of content moderation. This juxtaposition allows us to surface three themes on how the hype around automation is enabled by human intervention: the ad-hoc sociality in situated practices of automation, the capture of mundane expertise, and the inverted assistance of humans to machines. We argue that this human fix is not a temporary repair of malfunction, but a permanent and constitutive feature of automated systems.