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Framing governance for a contested emerging technology:insights from AI policy

Ulnicane, Inga; Knight, William; Leach, Tonii; Stahl, Bernd Carsten; Wanjiku, Winter-Gladys

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Inga Ulnicane

William Knight

Tonii Leach

Winter-Gladys Wanjiku


This paper examines how the governance in AI policy documents have been framed as way to resolve public controversies surrounding AI. It draws on the studies of governance of emerging technologies, the concept of policy framing, and analysis of 49 recent policy documents dedicated to AI which have been prepared in the context of technological hype expecting fast advances of AI that will fundamentally change economy and society. The hype about AI is accompanied by major public controversy about positive and negative effects of AI. Against the backdrop of this policy controversy, governance emerges as one of the frames that diagnoses the problems and offers prescriptions. Accordingly, the current governance characterized by oligopoly of a small number of large companies is indicated as one of the reasons for problems such as lack of consideration of societal needs and concerns. To address these problems, governance frame in AI policy documents assigns more active and collaborative roles to the state and society. Amid public controversies, the state is assigned the roles of promoting and facilitating AI development while at the same time being a guarantor of risk mitigation and enabler of societal engagement. High expectations are assigned to public engagement with multiple publics as a way to increase diversity, representation and equality in AI development and use. While this governance frame might have a normative appeal, it is not specific about addressing some well-known challenges of the proposed governance mode such as risks of capture by vested interests or difficulties to achieve consensus.


Ulnicane, I., Knight, W., Leach, T., Stahl, B. C., & Wanjiku, W. (2021). Framing governance for a contested emerging technology:insights from AI policy. Policy and Society, 40(2), 158-177.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 17, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 17, 2020
Publication Date Jun 1, 2021
Deposit Date Jan 1, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 12, 2023
Print ISSN 1449-4035
Electronic ISSN 1839-3373
Publisher Taylor and Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 2
Pages 158-177
Keywords Political Science and International Relations; Public Administration; Sociology and Political Science
Public URL
Publisher URL


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