Symbolic Interactionism and Artificial Intelligence #sssi #sociology #AI

Over the past few years, there has been plenty of discussion about artificial intelligence. Numerous books have been published on the topic and the newspapers and broadcast media are brimful with publications on how our world will be changed by ‘AI’. The discussions reach from novel ‘intelligent’ devices in the home and self-driving cars to ‘intelligent machines’ and ‘robots’ that are said to replace people in many workplaces. These growing debates are related to activities by governments to prioritize ‘AI’ for example “to create a national defence strategy” (NYT) and “to boost investment and set ethical guidelines” (European Commission 2018).

Symbolic Interactionism with its long-standing concern with the mind and cognition has plenty to contribute to these discussions and developments. Since Mead’s (1934) “Mind, Self and Society“, if not earlier, (symbolic) interactionists have explored the reflexive relationship between  action and cognition. Some of this research has been published in Symbolic Interaction, the scholarly journal of the ‘Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction‘.

Save for recent book reviews

Gottschalk, Simon (2015). Neuro Growth. (Review of Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind By Nikolas Rose, Joelle M. Abi‐Rached. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013. 335 (paper), ISBN 978‐0‐691‐14960‐8.)

Balmer, Andrew (2014). This Is Your Brain on Neuroscience. (Review of Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences Edited By M. Pickersgill and I. van Keulen, Emerald Group Publishing: Bingley, UK, 2011, £77.95 (hardback) 324 pp, ISBN: 978‐1‐84855‐880‐9.)

a few articles in Symbolic Interaction are devoted to the relationship between symbolic interactionism and artificial intelligence, such as

Ryan McVeigh’s article (2015) “Basic‐Level Categories, Mirror Neurons, and Joint‐Attention Schemes: Three Points of Intersection Between G.H. Mead and Cognitive Science” explores how recent developments in the cognitive sciences relate to the work of Mead and other (symbolic) interactionists,


Jörg Strübing’s article (2011) “Bridging the Gap: On the Collaboration between Symbolic Interactionism and Distributed Artificial Intelligence in the Field of Multi‐Agent Systems Research” discusses the relationship between symbolic interactionism and distributed artificial intelligence.

These and other book reviews and research articles reveal interactionists’ perspectives on artificial intelligence and other developments in the cognitive and computer sciences. They highlight the bearing of classic texts like Mead’s ‘Mind, Self and Society‘ as well as contemporary interactionist research on current debates on the development and impact of AI on our social world.


Other related interactionist publications:

Alač, Morana. 2011. Handling Digital Brains. A Laboratory Study of Multimodal Semiotic Interaction in the Age of Computers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Button, Graham, Jeff Coulter, John Lee, und Wes Sharrock. 1995. Computers, Minds and Conduct. Oxford: Wiley.

Gottschalk, Simon. 2018. The Terminal SelfLondon: Routledge.

Suchman, Lucy. 2007. Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and situated actions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Please send further references in the comments to add to the list.


About Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction - Blog

The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) is an international professional organization of scholars interested in the study of a wide range of social issues with an emphasis on identity, everyday practice, and language.
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1 Response to Symbolic Interactionism and Artificial Intelligence #sssi #sociology #AI

  1. Reblogged this on Interaction, Organisation & Technology and commented:
    This is a post reblogged from the blog of the journal Symbolic Interaction, the official journal of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.

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