Sub-theme 63: Professions in an Age of Intelligent Technologies -> HYBRID!

Caroline Ruiner
University of Hohenheim, Germany
Kasper Trolle Elmholdt
Aalborg University, Denmark
James Faulconbridge
Lancaster University Management School, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

The development and use of advanced and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), block chain, virtual and augmented reality, distributed networks as well as 5G and cloud are causing profound changes in supply chains, work organizations and processes (Elmholdt et al., 2021; Maridakis, 2017). These intelligent technologies are also impacting professions and professional service firms (Morris et al., 2017; Susskind & Susskind, 2015). As Raisch and Krakowski (2021) note, the professions and professional services find themselves in a paradoxical situation of potentially benefiting from forms of automation and process reconfiguration, whilst simultaneously needing to defend the kinds of contextually situated, creative and bespoke decision making that define professional advice.
AI is defined as “systems that exhibit intelligent behavior by analyzing their environment and – with some degree of autonomy – taking actions to achieve specific goals” (European Commission, 2019). In this sense, AI (can) make decisions and take actions that are affected by uncertainty, which can be seen as a competence and expertise formerly linked with human beings (Pasquale, 2021). This directly affects the services provided by humans. Associated with the use of technologies at work is a formalization of processes which shape working conditions and alter the role of humans as professionals. Formalization means “the extent to which rules, procedures, instructions, and communications are written” (Pugh et al., 1968: 75). The formalization of processes has far reaching consequences for professionals as it impacts the worker’s possibilities to act professionally and to represent their professional interests. This development could, on the one hand, lead to de-professionalization (Currie et al., 2019; Wilkesmann et al., 2020).

On the other hand, this could strengthen the role of the human expertise and lead to new mechanisms of connection and protection (Faulconbridge et al., 2021; Ruiner et al., 2020). Recent research shows that while AI is becoming a crucial part of the future work organization, humans play an important role in operating AI since work tasks are divided between humans and these intelligent information technologies (Mateescu & Elish, 2019). In this sense, intelligent information technologies may influence human decision processes instead of replacing them (Agrawal et al., 2019). Kristal (2020) points out that certain workers, such as those of professionally educated engineers, use these technological innovations to engage in ‘boundary work’ (Abbott, 1988) by exploiting technology to distinguish themselves from other workers. Similarly, intelligent information technologies may also spur battles over what kinds of expertise to privilege within established expert fields like medicine, law, and management consulting (Pasquale, 2021), or may lead to new configurations of expertise (Eyal, 2019; Elmholdt & Elmholdt, 2017). Thus, the implementation of intelligent information technologies creates structural holes in the production process, leading to the establishment of ‘input workers’ who have limited or no access to the data they themselves have produced. In this sense, information has become a commodity in the labour process and like other economic goods with some scarcity and value, it becomes more controlled and asymmetric, resulting in an information asymmetry and therefore a domination asymmetry between deciders and participants and input workers or executants.
We are interested in the impact of technological changes on institutional structures, supply chains, work organizations, professions and processes, as well as the impacts on individual professionals and invite interdisciplinary contributions from a range of methodological approaches to following list of questions, but not restricted to it:

  • How does the implementation of intelligent information technologies change professions and professional service organizations?

  • How are professions affected by the use of intelligent information technologies in terms of their claims, roles in society and relationships with other occupational groups?

  • How do professionals perceive, respond to and co-exist with intelligent information technologies?

  • How do work tasks and working conditions change through the use of intelligent information technologies, and what does this mean for relationships between professional practices, identities and logics?

  • How and by who are intelligent information technologies designed to support professional services, and with what implications for expertise claims, professional ethics and the configuration of systems of the professions?

  • How do intelligent technologies affect the configuration of expertise at organization and field-level, e.g. the emergence of meta-expertise (Pasquale, 2021)?



  • Abbott, A. (1988): The System of Professions: An Essay on the Expert Division of Labor. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Agrawal, A., Gans, J.S, & Goldfarb, A. (2019): “Artificial intelligence: the ambiguous labor market impact of automating prediction.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 33 (1), 31–50.
  • Bailey, D., Faraj, S., Hinds, P., von Krogh, G., & Leonardi, P. (2019): “Special Issue of organization science: emerging technologies and organizing.” Organization Science, 30 (3), 642–646.
  • Currie, G., Faulconbridge, J.R., Gabbioneta, C., Muzio, D., & Richmond, J. (2019): “Professional misconduct in healthcare: setting out a research agenda for work sociology.” Work, Employment and Society, 33 (1), 149–161.
  • Elmholdt, K.T., & Elmholdt, C.W. (2017): “Networks of expertise: an example from process consulting.” Academic Quarter, 15, 102–120.
  • Elmholdt, K.T., Elmholdt, C., & Haahr, L. (2021): “Counting sleep: ambiguity, aspirational control and the politics of digital self-tracking at work.” Organization, 28 (1), 164–185.
  • European Commission (2019): Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI. Available at:
  • Eyal, G. (2019): The Crisis of Expertise. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Faulconbridge, J.R., Henriksen, L.F., & Seabrooke, L. (2021): “How professional actions connect and protect.” Journal of Professions and Organization, 8 (2), 214–227.
  • Kristal, T. (2020): “Why has computerization increased wage inequality? Information, occupational structural power, and wage inequality.” Work and Occupations, 47 (4), 466–503.
  • Makridakis, S. (2017): “The forthcoming Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution: its impact on society and firms.” Futures, 90 (1), 46–60.
  • Mateescu, A., & Elish, M.C. (2019): AI in Context. The Labor of Integrating New Technologies. New York: Data & Society Research Institute.
  • Morris, T., Smets, M., von Nordenflycht, A., & Brock, D.M. (2017): “25 years since ‘P2’: taking stock and charting the future of professional firms.” Journal of Professions and Organization, 4 (2), 91–111.
  • Pasquale, F.A. (2021): Battle of the Experts: the Strange Career of Meta-Expertise. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Pugh, D.S., Hickson, D.J., Hinings, C.R., & Turner, C. (1968): “Dimensions of organization structure.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 13 (1), 65–105.
  • Raisch, S., & Krakowski, S. (2021): “Artificial intelligence and management: the automation–augmentation paradox.” Academy of Management Review, 46 (1), 192–210.
  • Ruiner, C., Wilkesmann, M., & Apitzsch, B. (2020): “Voice through exit – Changing working conditions by independent contractors’ participation.” Economic and Industrial Democracy, 41 (4), 839–859.
  • Susskind, R.E., & Susskind, D. (2015): The Future of the Professions: How Technology will Transform the Work of Human Experts. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Wilkesmann, M., Ruiner, C., Apitzsch, B., & Salloch, S. (2020): “’I Want to Break Free’: German Locum Physicians Between Managerialism and Professionalism.” Professions and Professionalism, 10 (1), 1–17.
Caroline Ruiner is Full Professor for Sociology and Prorector for Digital Transformation at University of Hohenheim, Germany. Her research focuses in particular on new work and new employment relationships, effects of changing world of work at individual and organizational level as well as with regard to industrial relations. Caroline is particularly concerned with the increasing digitalization and the respective workers’ perceptions in different fields of employment such as hospitals, logistics, and others.
Kasper Trolle Elmholdt is an Associate Professor of Organization Studies at the Department of Politics and Society at Aalborg University, Denmark. He researches the intersections of work, organization and technology mainly in the contexts of management consulting and healthcare. Currently, Kasper is involved in a research project examining how organizations and professionals respond to the use of predictive algorithmic technologies, and the implications of these technologies for the configuration of expertise.
James Faulconbridge is Professor and Associate Dean at Lancaster University Management School, UK. His research focuses on the management and globalization of professional service firms. James has studied of a range of sectors including accountancy, advertising, architecture, executive search and law. Most recently, James has been involved in the Next Generation Professional Service Firm project that examines how accounting and law firms are evolving as they adopt artificial intelligence technologies.