Two PhD-positions for project “Is AI outsmarting us? The impact of AI on knowledge work”.

Research / Academic
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing work, and predictions about job losses have reached newspaper headlines. Current debates on AI and work are typically framed around its consequences for jobs, though without empirically grounded research into both AI’s development and its implications for organizations and professionals. AI systems that are currently being developed and rolled out in organizations are crucially different from prior ‘rule based’ expert systems, bringing about novel risks for organizations and knowledge work. Their autonomous, self-learning capability and ability to black-box knowledge, may increase people’s dependencies on machines and even render whole categories of knowledge work obsolete, raising fundamental questions, such as whether the expertise of highly educated professionals will even be needed in the future. We propose to use a social practice perspective to gain a deeper understanding of how and why AI systems impact knowledge work. Through longitudinal qualitative studies of multiple cases we will reveal how AI developers come to understand the domain for which they develop their AI systems. The AI-KNOW project will be the first to trace the broader unintended consequences of AI systems for expertise at work in real-world settings. Such understanding is urgently needed to empirically interrogate the often-pessimistic scenarios expressed by commentators. AI-KNOW will contribute to theories of technology’s role in knowledge, professional and organizational change. We will capitalize on this research to develop a methodology for ‘Collaborative AI’ that augments instead of automates knowledge work, ultimately contributing to a human-centric digital society.

Your duties

The PhD student will conduct theoretical and empirical research on themes such as:
  • the sociotechnical construction of AI
  • social practice perspective on knowledge in relation to AI
  • the process of encoding domain expertise in AI systems
  • the impact and unintended consequences of deploying AI systems in case organizations
  • the political and social sides of data and data analytics
  • the role of management in buying and implementing AI solutions
The PhD student will give a modest contribution to the Department’s teaching programme, with the opportunity to obtain a basic qualification teaching certificate (shortened BKO).


  • motivated to do high quality research with the aim of publishing top level articles for both an organizational science and practitioner audience
  • communication skills required to collaborate with industry partner(s)
  • academic writing skills
  • high proficiency English language; Dutch proficiency (or willingness to learn) preferred
  • research Master or MSc in business administration, sociology, anthropology, or equivalent
  • expertise in and affinity with qualitative research methods e.g. ethnography, interviews, and observations

Salary Benefits:

A challenging position in a socially involved organization. The salary will be in accordance with university regulations for academic personnel and amounts €2,325 (PhD) per month during the first year and increases to €2,972 (PhD) per month during the fourth year, based on a full-time employment. The job profile: is based on the university job ranking system and is vacant for at least 1 FTE.

The appointment will initially be for 1 year. After a satisfactory evaluation of the initial appointment, the contract will be extended for a duration of 4 years.
Additionally, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam offers excellent fringe benefits and various schemes and regulations to promote a good work/life balance, such as:
  • a maximum of 41 days of annual leave based on full-time employment
  • 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus
  • solid pension scheme (ABP)
  • contribution to commuting expenses
  • optional model for designing a personalized benefits package

Work Hours:

38 - 40 hours per week


De Boelelaan 1105