Introduction: Bots

Having just unfolded what infrastructural harms could be, we now move to exploring bots. When we say bots, we refer to software applications that automatise certain tasks and can run autonomously or semi-autonomously. Some of the most popular examples include voice assistants such as Alexa or Siri, but they can also be web crawlers indexing the web or even bots maintaining Wikipedia.

Bots are an interface between digital infrastructures and human users. They are automated scripts that fulfil specific tasks. They also do not require expensive equipment to be able to be run, which means that amateur as well as experienced programmers are able to build them and deploy them.

Andreas Hepp terms communicative robots2 as "autonomously operating systems designed for the purpose of quasi-communication with human beings to enable further algorithmic-based functionalities – often but not always on the basis of artificial intelligence" (1410).

In this track, we will introduce Andreas Hepp, professor of media and communications at the ZeMKI, University of Bremen.


  1. Plantin, Jean-Cristophe. Lagoze, Carl. Edwards, Paul N. Sandvig, Christian. "Infrastructure studies meet platform studies in the age of Google and Facebook" New Media and Society Volume 20 (2016): 293-310. 

  2. Hepp, Andreas. "Artificial companions, social bots and work bots: communicative robots as research objects of media and communication studies" Media, Culture & Society Volume 42 (2020): 1410-1426.