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Governing Algorithms: A Provocation Piece

Solon Barocas

Princeton University - Center for Information Technology Policy

Sophie Hood

New York University (NYU)

Malte Ziewitz

Cornell University

March 29, 2013

Algorithms have developed into somewhat of a modern myth. They “compet[e] for our living rooms” (Slavin 2011), “determine how a billion plus people get where they’re going” (McGee 2011), “have already written symphonies as moving as those composed by Beethoven” (Steiner 2012), and “free us from sorting through multitudes of irrelevant results” (Spring 2011). Nevertheless, the nature and implications of such orderings are far from clear. What exactly is it that algorithms “do”? What is the role attributed to “algorithms” in these arguments? How can we turn the “problem of algorithms” into an object of productive inquiry? This paper sets out to trouble the coherence of the algorithm as an analytical category and explores its recent rise in scholarship, policy, and practice through a series of provocations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 12

Keywords: algorithms, governance, automation, computation, big data, sociology, law, public policy, control

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Date posted: April 4, 2013 ; Last revised: April 8, 2013

Suggested Citation

Barocas, Solon and Hood, Sophie and Ziewitz, Malte, Governing Algorithms: A Provocation Piece (March 29, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2245322 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2245322

Contact Information

Solon Barocas
Princeton University - Center for Information Technology Policy ( email )
Princeton University
303 Sherrerd Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
Sophie Hood
New York University (NYU) ( email )
Malte Ziewitz (Contact Author)
Cornell University ( email )
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
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