AI in Software Programming: Understanding Emotional Responses to GitHub Copilot

Eshraghian, F., Hafezieh, N., Farivar, F. and De Cesare, S. 2024. AI in Software Programming: Understanding Emotional Responses to GitHub Copilot. Information Technology & People. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-01-2023-0084

TitleAI in Software Programming: Understanding Emotional Responses to GitHub Copilot
TypeJournal article
AuthorsEshraghian, F., Hafezieh, N., Farivar, F. and De Cesare, S.
Abstract

The applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in various areas of professional and knowledge work are growing. Emotions play an important role in how users incorporate a technology into their work practices. The current study draws on work in the areas of AI-powered technologies adaptation, emotions, and the future of work, to investigate how knowledge workers feel about adopting AI in their work.
We gathered 107,111 tweets about the new AI programmer, GitHub Copilot, launched by GitHub and analysed the data in three stages. First, after cleaning and filtering the data, we applied the topic modelling method to analyse 16,130 tweets posted by 10,301 software programmers to identify emotions they expressed. Then, we analysed the outcome topics qualitatively to understand the stimulus characteristics driving those emotions. Finally, we analysed a sample of tweets to explore how emotional responses changed over time.
We found six categories of emotions among software programmers: challenge, achievement, loss, deterrence, scepticism, and apathy. In addition, we found these emotions were driven by four stimulus characteristics: AI development, AI functionality, identity work, and AI engagement. We also examined the change of emotions over time. The results indicate that negative emotions changed to more positive emotions once software programmers redirected their attention to the AI programmer’s capabilities and functionalities, and related that to their identity work.
Overall, as organisations start adopting AI-powered technologies in their software development practices, our research offers practical guidance to managers by identifying factors that can change negative emotions to positive emotions.
Our study makes a timely contribution to the discussions of AI and the future of work through the lens of emotions. In contrast to nascent discussions on the role of AI in high-skilled jobs that show knowledge workers’ general ambivalence towards AI, we find knowledge workers show more positive emotions over time and as they engage more with AI. In addition, this study unveils the role of professional identity in leading to more positive emotions towards AI, as knowledge workers view such technology as a means of expanding their identity rather than as a threat to it.

KeywordsArtificial Intelligence
GitHub Copilot
Emotion
AI programmer
Twitter
JournalInformation Technology & People
ISSN0959-3845
Year2024
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-NC 4.0
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-01-2023-0084
Web address (URL)https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/ITP-01-2023-0084/full/html
Publication dates
Published online02 Apr 2024
ProjectIdentity emotions in AI adoption in knowledge work: The case of software programmers

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