The Outsourcing Illusion: Why Tempting Technology Can Lead to Dangerous Delegation


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The Outsourcing Illusion: Why Tempting Technology Can Lead to Dangerous Delegation
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Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Collection
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In The Outsourced Self, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild argues that Americans are increasingly delegating intimate emotional labor to service providers: child, elder, and pet caretakers, love coaches, wedding planners, rented friends, and even so-called wantologists. While these marketplace transactions hold out the promise of improving our lives, Hochschild takes a deeper look at outsourcing and shows that it can yield problematic, even tragic results: depersonalized bonds, distorted family values, an overly-instrumentalized orientation to relationships, diminished virtue, and atrophied civic life. Hochschild doesn’t say much about consumer technology, but the issues she’s concerned with directly apply to our relation to it. Silicon Valley expects us to embrace outsourcing creep by relying on cyber-servants: ever-expanding smart, predictive, behavior-modifying, and labor saving tools. This techno-social trajectory points to a form of life where the transformative impacts of outsourcing become more pervasive and intense. To make wise decisions when confronted with outsourcing technologies that can fundamentally impact our sensibilities, we need a clear sense of what technological outsourcing is, why it often promises more than it can deliver, and how to judge when to avoid it. The task before us, therefore, is to grasp the phenomenological contours of what I call the outsourcing illusion.
Evan Selinger is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he is also Affiliated Faculty with the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and the Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction, and Creativity (MAGIC). He’s also a Fellow at The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology. Evan’s research addresses ethical issues concerning technology, science, the law, expertise, and sustainability. A prolific academic author, Evan also cares deeply about public engagement, writing for popular magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including: Wired, Slate, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, Three Quarks Daily, Huffington Post, and The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology. His single- and co-authored books include: Expertise: Philosophical Reflections (Automatic/VIP Press, 2011), Chasing Technoscience: Matrix for Materiality (co-edited with Don Ihde, Indiana University Press, 2003), Five Questions in Philosophy of Technology (co-edited with Jan Olsen, Automatic/VIP Press, 2007), Rethinking Theories and Practices of Imaging (co-edited with Timothy Engström, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), and Five Questions in Sustainability Ethics (co-edited with Wade Robison and Ryne Raffelle, Automatic/VIP Press, 2010).

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
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