BCM212 Reflection

This reflection will go over some key learning points from completing my research project. I’ll be considering how I engaged and represented others as an ethical researcher, with emphasis on the importance of empathy and respect, time management, reflexivity, and having a clear communication plan.

This is the first university assessment where I’ve been required to complete an extensive research project. For me, the methods of ethical research were something I hadn’t considered before, and now I realise there’s more involved in research than just trying to find answers. Empathy and respect were two important aspects of this process for me. McCarthy, 2017 talks about the importance of empathy as a vital component to research design and design thinking.  She argues that empathy is not merely ‘a box that needs checking’, but a continuous process for designers and researchers. Therefore empathy is part of our social obligation to our stakeholders and other people involved in research. For me, wording my survey carefully was important to avoid offending any group of people. Not that my survey had a gender focus, however for example, if I were to ask participants whether they were male or female, I would be unintentionally marginalising those of the trans-gender community. Consciously thinking about empathy and ethical research practices, I would make sure to include an ‘other’ box or something like that. Automation can be a touchy subject as some people feel threatened by the prospect of unemployment. In the survey, I asked participants about their current employment, and their thoughts towards losing their jobs to automation. I’ve ensured to make every question optional as not to pressure anyone into answering questions that could cause distress. I believe having a discussion about automation is important; however I understand that some people don’t want to think or talk about it either, and that’s where I need to have empathy and respect for my participants. After all, I don’t know any of them personally, and they are doing me a favour by completing the survey.

Another component of successful research is reflexivity; which is developing a research project with the intent both to learn about the world, and to influence the world. (Soros, 2009) Reflexivity played an important role in my research, as the future of work and automation is very much an issue of learning about the world in order to try and fix it. That is a hyperbolic statement, however the overall aim of the project is to try and change the way young people look at the development of technology and how it could affect their future job opportunities. Therefore, being reflexive is fundamental in shaping context around the issue of automation, i.e. what is automation and what can we do individually to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future in terms of employment?

Communicating what I’ve been doing would fall under the communication process, which enables readers to be updated on my research project. Communication needs to be clear in order to avoid confusion among readers. I have tried my best to update participants through my blog and will be posting my final report there too so everyone can view the full results and findings. To be honest, this is probably the poorest component of my research project. I’ve spent most of my time dedicated to background research, surveying and analysis, that I haven’t had enough time to talk about my project and share outcomes. This would be a result of time management…

Time management seems to be a reoccurring theme in my reflections at university; it’s also something I addressed extensively in Task 2. Efficient time management would increase effectiveness and productivity, and requires good planning in order to meet tight deadlines. After completing this project, I’ve realised more time should’ve been dedicated to the communication plan in order to maintain interest from readers, especially towards the end.

This research assessment has helped prepare me for future academic endeavours, where I will further explore research techniques to better understand the world around me. It’s also helped me understand the complex process of research, with so much emphasis on socially responsible research practices. As a final mention, I’ve enjoyed the chance to research something I’m personally interested in and hope that my future research at university can build upon lessons learnt from this project.

References:

McCarthy, K. (2017). More than checking the empathy box. [Blog] dscout. Available at: https://blog.dscout.com/martha-cotton-fjord-people-nerds [Accessed 31 May 2017].

Soros, G. (2009). General theory of reflexivity. Financial Times.

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BCM212 Research Project Update

So far, most of my time has been dedicated to locating and summarising sources about automation and young people. Background research currently includes information from ABC’s Four Corners and The Conversation (which uses content sourced from the academic and research community). The issue of young people being affected by automation isn’t something that has lots of research dedicated to it yet, as we don’t really know how big an impact it will have on our future economy. However, I’ll be focusing mainly on how young people (particularly university students) feel about the threat of automation and how it has the potential to change employment in lots of different industries. I’ll also be looking to find more academic sources for my research.

Apart from background research, I’ve also designed a survey, which can be found here. The aim of the survey is to understand how young people feel about changes in technology and whether they think they’ll be affected by automation at some point in their working life. So far, the survey has been shared on social media (Twitter). I’ve also posted a link to it on the BCM212 Moodle spreadsheet, which will hopefully help me gain a few responses. This is the first survey I’ve created in my academic life and it’s been a valuable experience. I’ve learned just by early responses how important it is to word questions easily, so people understand what you’re really asking. I think the survey is an important part of the research process, especially when needing to conduct primary research. I was considering at one point setting up a small focus group in order to better understand how young people think when it comes to changes in technology and threatening the way we work. However, so far I think the survey should provide me with enough insight into the topic I am researching. I do however need to find more ways to share my survey, so that I’m not simply relying on other students from BCM on Twitter. I will be looking into Reddit as another option, and hopefully I can find university students outside my degree, who might have a wider range of thoughts on the issues I’m researching.

How will automation affect work in future Australia?

It’s a headline that is all too familiar these days. With the advancement of automation, workers of all calibre are being replaced by computers and politicians are being faced with what to do about rising levels of unemployment. For this assessment, I’ve decided to research how automation will affect future job prospects in Australia. I will be looking into the positives and negatives of automation and computerisation in different industries, to explore which trades are most at threat. I’m curious about what can be done (if possible) to avoid high rates of unemployment in the future. Nearly 40 per cent of jobs that exist today have a moderate to high chance of disappearing in the next 10 to 15 years, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. (Burgess, 2016)

I’m interested in researching this topic because as a young person, automation will likely affect my generation in a big way. If machines can be used to replace doctors, then there’s no limit to how automation will impact future jobs. Two fifths of jobs in New South Wales are at high risk of being lost to computerisation, according to a NSW government briefing paper released in December. (Dumas, 2016) There’s not really anything in my own life that has particularly inspired me to research this topic, however growing up in the Illawarra, you already start to see the effect of automation putting people out of jobs; an example that comes to mind would be the Port Kembla Steelworks. A lot of people in my neighbourhood have worked at the Steelworks, and some have lost their jobs and had to either relocate or leave the industry in order to find work.

So in essence, my question is “how will automation affect work in future Australia?” I’ll also be asking “what can be done to avoid high unemployment rates as a result of automation?” I will approach this research task by specifically focusing on automation in Australia. I’ll be telling the story from the perspectives of both workers and corporations. There are a lot of news articles out there sharing the hardships of those who have been displaced as a result of automation. I’m not trying to make automation seem evil; I just want to find out what it will mean for the future economy and life of working Australians. I’ll also look at how education can provide better skillsets, and potentially reduce the rate of unemployment in the industries most at threat. For my own benefit, I will continue to update this blog with my progress and share sources I believe to be relevant to my research.

automatedassembly
Image: Aidan Cunniffe

References:

Burgess, M. (2016). How to stay ahead of the robots. [online] news.com.au. Available at: http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/careers/robots-and-automation-to-replace-40-per-cent-of-todays-jobs-so-workers-need-to-reskill-now/news-story/290d552004d41b261ebadde4177312c0 [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

Dumas, D. (2016). Man v machine: Half of NSW jobs at risk of computerisation. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/man-vs-machine-half-of-nsw-jobs-at-risk-of-computerisation-20160107-gm18t1.html [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].