The algorithmic automation of media processes has produced machines that perform in roles that were previously occupied by human beings. Recent research has probed various theoretical approaches to the agency and ethical responsibility of machines and algorithms. However, there is no theoretical consensus concerning many key issues. Rather than setting out with fixed conceptions, this research calls for a closer look at the considerations and attitudes that motivate actual attributions of agency and responsibility. The empirical context of this study is legacy media where the introduction of automation, together with topical considerations of journalistic ethics and responsibility, has given rise to substantial reflection on received conceptions and practices. The results show a continuing resistance to attributions of agency and responsibility to machines. Three lines of thinking that motivate this stance are distinguished, and their potential shortcomings and theoretical implications are considered.
New Media & Society
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