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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh Futures Institute : Edinburgh Futures Institute

Postgraduate Course: Work Futures (fusion online) (EFIE11055)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh Futures Institute CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryWith the proliferation of digital technologies and digital data, work futures have become uncertain. On the one hand, there are techno-dystopian warnings of robots replacing humans at work, and on the other there are promises of reduced work and richer lives in a post-work society.

This course critically engages with such visions and develops radical alternatives. Students will develop their own future scenarios for the world of work we want to live in, and will propose principles that should guide such futures.
Course description Work defines humankind and shapes societies. However, processes of automation and robotisation are transforming humans' contemporary relationship with work, and are implicated in generating wide-ranging inequalities and polarisation. This trend looks likely to continue. A different world of work is possible, but developing alternatives requires radical thinking, socio-political will, long-term planning, attention to the education system, and most importantly, a 'vision' or set of principles to guide these changes.

For systems of education, for example, it is not sufficient to ask what kinds of skill sets are needed by people to be able to participate in the world of work - we also need to ask: what kind of world of work do we want to live in?

The course is designed around individual tasks, classroom-based group discussions, brainstorming sessions and workshops for students to develop radical alternatives for work futures.

Students will progress through three stages:

(1) The Immersion Stage (pre-intensive weeks):

Will involve individual and group work (both synchronous and asynchronous). Students will engage with a combination of essential readings, and audio/video commentaries on techno-dystopian and utopian futures of work.

(2) The Intensive Stage (two-day workshop):

Day 1 will involve three Foundational Lecture Workshops involving lectures and group discussion. These will cover: sociology of work (how work gets done); geography of work (where and why work gets done); technology at work (how work is changing). On Day 2, students will work in teams in a workshop-based format to brainstorm radical ideas around the future of work in three separate sessions: Principles, Vision, and Practice, followed by group presentations.

3. Post-Intensive/Application Stage:

The third phase will be dedicated to investigation and production of the assignment, and drop-in sessions. This will allow students to work independently and also be re-grouped to engage in peer-to-peer discussions and feedback.

Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) - Online Fusion Course Delivery Information:

The Edinburgh Futures Institute will teach this course in a way that enables online and on-campus students to study together. This approach (our 'fusion' teaching model) offers students flexible and inclusive ways to study, and the ability to choose whether to be on-campus or online at the level of the individual course. It also opens up ways for diverse groups of students to study together regardless of geographical location. To enable this, the course will use technologies to record and live-stream student and staff participation during their teaching and learning activities. Students should note that their interactions may be recorded and live-streamed. There will, however, be options to control whether or not your video and audio are enabled.

As part of your course, you will need access to a personal computing device. Unless otherwise stated activities will be web browser based and as a minimum we recommend a device with a physical keyboard and screen that can access the internet.

As part of your course, you will need access to a personal computing device. Unless otherwise stated activities will be web browser based and as a minimum we recommend a device with a physical keyboard and screen that can access the internet.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  7
Course Start Semester 2
Course Start Date 15/01/2024
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 6, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Online Activities 10, Formative Assessment Hours 2, Other Study Hours 8, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 66 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) Other Study: Scheduled Group-work Hours (hybrid online/on-campus) - 8
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Summative Assessment:

The course will be assessed by means of the following components:

1) Public-Facing Artefact (60%)

Students will be challenged to create a public-facing artefact that creatively addresses alternative work futures, and matches their own particular interest (60% weighting). Through dialogue with the course organiser, students will select a medium that is suited to the knowledge being conveyed, the anticipated public audience, and their own skills of expression.

The public-facing artefact will take one of the following forms:
- Fiction
- Illustration
- Poster
- Or other format and media, e.g. video and audio (to be agreed with Course Organiser)

2) 750 Word Blog Post (40%)

Students will offer a rationale for their work in an accompanying blog post (max 750 words with a 40% weighting).

The blog and public-facing artefact will be submitted together - two weeks after the end of the intensive.

Formative Assessment:

At the end of the first week of the course, students will prepare a 500 word blog post where they share their understanding of some of the core materials.
Feedback Feedback on the formative assessment may be provided in various formats, for example, to include written, oral, video, face-to-face, whole class, or individual. The course organiser will decide which format is most appropriate in relation to the nature of the assessment.

Feedback on both formative and summative in-course assessed work will be provided in time to be of use in subsequent assessments within the course.

Feedback on the summative assessment will be provided in written form via Learn, the University of Edinburgh's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Feedback on the formative assessment blog post will be provided by peers and course staff.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of techno-dystopian and techno-utopian work futures.
  2. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of factors that shape the way work is organised, controlled, and conducted: socio-political, economic, spatial, and technological (data and digital technologies).
  3. Integrate multiple perspectives to develop a collaborative set of guiding principles that could shape work futures.
  4. Critically explore the changing trajectories of work and develop radical alternatives.
Reading List
Indicative Reading List:

Essential Reading:

Non-Fiction Books/Journal Articles (Chapters from books will be decided/assigned later):

Srnicek, Nick and Alex Williams (2015). Inventing the future: Post-capitalism and a world without work. London: Verso.

Mueller, G. (2021). Breaking Things at Work: The Luddites Are Right About Why You Hate Your Job, London, Verso.

Frayne, D. (2015). The Refusal of Work: The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Work. London: Zed Books.

Clark, G., M. Fledman, M. Gertler, and Dariusz Wójcik. (2018). The New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ransome, Paul. (2019). Sociology and the Future of Work: Contemporary Discourses and Debates. Routledge.

Thompson, Paul. (2020). 'Capitalism, Technology and Work: Interrogating the Tipping Point Thesis'. The Political Quarterly 91, (2): 299-309.


Bogdanov, A. (1984). Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia. edited by Loren Graham and Richard Stites; trans. Charles Rougle. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Graham, M., Kitchin, R., Mattern, S. and Shaw, J. (eds) (2019) How to Run a City like Amazon and Other Fables. Meatspace Press.

Lee, K. F. and Qiufan, C. (2022) AI 2041: Ten visions for our future, Penguin: New York.

Reports/Media Articles:

Coyne. L. 2020. Breaking the Frame: Confronting Three Challenges of Techno-Utopianism. The Futures of Work.

World Economic Forum. (2018). Eight Futures of Work: Scenarios and their Implications.

Smith, J. (2017) Nowhere to go: Automation Then and Now (Part I and II). The Brooklyn Rail. Part I: and Part II

Videos Lectures/Interviews/Documentaries:

The Economist. (2019). The Future of Work: Is your job safe?

Recommended Reading:

Susskind, D (2020) A World without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond. London: Allen Lane.

Danaher, J. (2019) Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World without Work. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

MacKinnon, Danny, and Andrew Cumbers. (2014). Introduction to Economic Geography: Globalization, Uneven Development and Place. Routledge.

Edgell, Stephen, Heidi Gottfried, and Edward Granter (2015). The SAGE Handbook of the Sociology of Work and Employment. SAGE.

Baker, S. E. (2018). Post-work Futures and Full Automation: Towards a Feminist Design Methodology, Open Cultural Studies. 2: 540-552.

Findlay, Patricia, and Paul Thompson. (2017). 'Contemporary Work: Its Meanings and Demands'. Journal of Industrial Relations 59, (2): 122-38.

Bruce-Lockhart, A. (2020). Davos 2020: Here's what you need to know about the future of work. World Economic Forum.

CIPD. 2020. CIPD Manifesto for Work 2020. London.

United Workers Union. 2020. Technology and Power.

Noonan, J. 2019. The Problem with Post Work. New Statesman.

Interview Paul Thomson and Elizabeth Cotton (2018). Theories of a 'Post-Work' Society, WES 2018.

Video. Susskind. D. (2018). 3 myths about the future of work (and why they're not true).

McAfee, A. (2013). What will the future jobs look like?

PodCast: Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs - podcast.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course contributes to the following graduate attributes and skills:

- Creative problem solvers and researchers;
- Critical and reflective thinkers;
- Curiosity for learning that makes a positive difference;
- Passion to engage locally and globally;
- Effective and influential contributors;
- Skilled communicators.
Course organiserDr Mohammad Amir Anwar
Tel: (0131 6)51 1731
Course secretaryMiss Abby Gleave
Tel: (0131 6)51 1337
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