Stories In/Around the Machine

thumbnail siam

Project Lead: 

Yung Au

Oxford Internet Institute


Lead Collaborators:

Kathleen Azali 

Independent Researcher, Co-Founder PERIN+1S - C2O



Srujana Katta

PhD researcher, Oxford Internet Institute



Dr. Jun-E Tan 

Independent researcher




About the project: 


Stories In/Around the Machine is a project that explores the stories of how AI/ML systems have become entangled in the rhythms of informal work in Asia. 


By engaging a wide network of workers, unions, researchers, and artists in the region, we aim to tease out tales of troubles, tinkering, and trickeries of living with AI/ML systems. 


In many parts of Asia, the vast majority of workers earn their livelihoods through a variety of nonstandard jobs. For example, the informal sector accounts for over 60% of the Indonesian workforce and over 90% of the Indian workforce. The stories of working lives here, in the majority world, paint a very different picture from the stories we commonly hear in the global north, which dominate much discourse today. Through storytelling and visualisations, this project seeks to illustrate the rich and lively stories in the informal economy in/around/with/against/after/before/above/beneath machines—from domestic workers operating behind online storefronts, to anecdotes of algorithmic resistance from street vendors.


In some cases, AI/ML technologies seem to have enabled access to better livelihoods, and in others, they seem to have brought on increased worker surveillance, amplified patriarchal control over women’s work, expanded the shadow labour force, and shrunk workers’ opportunities to organise. What complications do these technologies bring to aspirations for decent work in Asia? Which are the continuities, and which processes are reconfigured? How do workers and organisers grapple with perpetual surveillance, extractive logics and forced optimisation? What are the stories in and around these machines?




This project is generously funded by the Minderoo AI Challenge Fund.