Bounded Religious Automation at Work: Communicating Human Authority in Artificial Intelligence Networks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Existential threats to human work and leadership have been expressed over intensifying human-machine communication, and the development of robots and artificial intelligence (AI). Yet popular texts and techno-centric approaches to AI assume a flat ontology in human-machine communication which obscures power relations governing new technologies, necessitating a bounded automation approach integrating socio-economic influences that shape AI diffusion in distinctive occupational settings. This article advances three critical lines of enquiry to interrogate abstract labor displacement propositions by contextualizing human authority and communication in spiritual work. By explicating the dynamic and relational ways in which clerics strategically manage emerging social robotics, discussion of the case of ‘the world’s first robot monk’ illustrates how organizational leaders can influence AI agents to (re)produce values and cultural realities. In the process, priests strengthen normative regulation of power by aligning epistemic knowledge shared about AI and during human-machine communication to extant understandings of collective ideals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Communication Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • artificial intelligence
  • authority
  • communication technology
  • religion
  • social robots

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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