Governing Algorithms: A Provocation Piece
12 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2013 Last revised: 8 Apr 2013
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: algorithms, governance, automation, computation, big data, sociology, law, public policy, control
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