Date of Award

Summer 6-22-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Moving Image Studies

First Advisor

Ethan Tussey

Second Advisor

Amelia Arsenault

Third Advisor

Greg Smith

Fourth Advisor

Langdon Winner


Contemporary discourses and representations of automation stress the impending “autonomy” of automated technologies. From pop culture depictions to corporate white papers, the notion of autonomous technologies tends to enliven dystopic fears about the threat to human autonomy or utopian potentials to help humans experience unrealized forms of autonomy. This project offers a more nuanced perspective, rejecting contemporary notions of automation as inevitably vanquishing or enhancing human autonomy. Through a discursive analysis of industrial “deep texts” that offer considerable insights into the material development of automated media technologies, I argue for contemporary automation to be understood as a field for the exchange of autonomy, a human-machine autonomy in which autonomy is exchanged as cultural and economic value. Human-machine autonomy is a shared condition among humans and intelligent machines shaped by economic, legal, and political paradigms with a stake in the cultural uses of automated media technologies. By understanding human-machine autonomy, this project illuminates complications of autonomy emerging from interactions with automated media technologies across a range of cultural contexts.