40 years of automation anxiety in the UK through BBC clips [video]

I’ve just done a rough edit of some snippets from BBC programmes that I think shows an interesting pattern to the ways that automation has been discussed by the UK national broadcaster over the last 40 years. In each case, automation is a significant issue – it needs to be urgently addressed, but that hasn’t yet happened.

Out of the three programmes, the first two are fairly significant in their onward influence.

The first, the 1978 “Now the Chips Are Down” Horizon episode was reportedly a significant influence for the BBC’s own Computer Literacy Project, which spawned the BBC Micro Computer.

The second, the 1980 (middle of three) episode(s) of “The Silicon Factor” was a part of the Computer Literacy Project. Alongside the three-part series, the producers created a report (for the BBC Continuing Education Department): “Microelectronics“, which was commissioned by the outgoing late-1970s Labour government’s Department for Education and the Manpower Services Commission. I thoroughly recommend watching the programmes and looking at the report if you’re interested in the histories of computing and automation in the UK.

The third, as far as I know – less significant in it’s onward influence, is a 2015 episode of Panorama: “Could a Robot Do My Job?” Interesting here because the rhetoric is nearly identical to that of “The Silicon Factor” – we need to take advantage of the revolution.

I’ve got more to say about this and I need to do a bit more thinking but wanted to share, because I think it’s interesting! This video (or a revised version) will form a part of my paper for a double session on ‘New Geographies of Automation(?)‘ at the RGS-IBG conference in August 2018 concerning the ways that we imagine automation.

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