Welfare digitalization: On dominant narratives in Norwegian media
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Digitalized and automated welfare systems are not neutral; a reality which is already causing added patterns of global inequality and generating unsustainable outcomes. The study of welfare technologies and digital welfare systems provides a real societal sample in which AI and automated eligibility systems are governing the lives of specific groups, reflecting the potential social reality global automated governance may generate for our species in the future. Aiming to improve the understanding of such potential future reality and contribute to the risk-related literature on digital social work and social sustainability, this study maps and analyses dominant welfare technology and welfare system digitalization narratives using a novel combination of phronetic social science methods and Posthumanism, i.e. applied posthumanist ethics. Research questions used: (1) What are the dominant discourses at play in the implementation of welfare technology in Norway, and which tensions can be detected in Norwegian media coverage and debates on contemporary welfare system digitalization trends? (2) To what extent can these situated perceptions tell us something about the country's future socio-developmental pathway and its alignment with social sustainability ethical frameworks? Dominant discourses are shown to be strongly influenced by technocentric and capitalist values, this instead of sustainability concerns. It is revealed that “questions of belonging and who/what gets to count”, with the economic sustainability of the welfare state and increasing welfare digital exclusion as opposing standpoints, are the most pressing ethical tensions deriving from welfare system digitalization in Norway. Rationalized by time and economic efficiency-focused values, technocentric development has taken over the welfare sector. Consequently, the exclusive and power-based developmental pathway Norway is engaging in is neglecting a potential sustainable future reached through shared social wellbeing, thus failing to align with national and global social sustainability ethical frameworks. Additionally, it is discovered that non-democratic high-tech multinationals may be intentionally using the socially friendly Scandinavian countries to boost the global acceptance needed to start introducing bio-tech enhancements on the global private markets. The results highlight the critical need for posthuman perspectives within the Digital Social Work and digital welfare landscapes, confirming the necessity for independent practice-based research. A list of suggested interventions is generated in which Posthumanism and Phronetic Social Sciences are recommended as positive tools to help rethink social welfare practices and generate true sustainable forms of community bonding through affirmative practices.
Master's thesis in Energy, Environment and Society