Activity: Talk or presentation types › Oral presentation
In recent years, we have witnessed an escalation of fears related to the rise of algorithmic governmentality in highly digitalised societies. Some of the major concerns lauded by scholars, journalists, and citizens alike, revolve around the isolation of the digital public spheres through social fragmentation generated by algorithmic logics; the reproduction of biases against race, gender and class in machine learning; and the suppression of ethics in favour of commercial logics based on politics of satisfaction and normalisation of the average. Most of these concerns emanate from an assumption of algorithms as “black boxes” (Pasquale) that causes a crisis of knowing of and acting on the all-more pervasive algorithmic logics of control. This paper sees a need to reframe the scholarly and public debate around these issues and to reassert the agential and political capacities of media users, demystifying the black box and with it reducing the sense of fear of algorithmic governmentality. It formulates three propositions for how to do so. First, following Bucher, the paper argues for an epistemological reframing based on destabilising the focus on the technicality of algorithms and shifting attention on their embeddedness in practice. Second, when moving to practice, it prompts the need to re-emphasise the capacities of everyday media users for changing and challenging the algorithms, and offers an empirical example of how this can be done through media practice, not through code. Third, theoretical work on repair and algorithmic labor is further helpful to consider the instability and impermanence of machine learning and algorithmically constructed governance by highlighting the processes of human maintenance, disruption, decay and decommissioning of algorithms. Altogether, these three propositions aim to create a renewed framework for theoretical and empirical enquiry that proposes more hopeful paths of managing the machinic.